The Yale girls basketball team took the court with boosted confidence Saturday afternoon, prepared to do something no team in the program’s recent history had done before.
Matched against the favored Caro Tigers in the Division 2, District 64 championship, Yale stormed to an 11-2 lead, forcing a timeout with 4:41 to go in the first quarter. By halftime, the Bulldogs maintained a 28-17 advantage.
“The game before, we beat Imlay City and we hadn’t beaten them in three years. The girls told me that game, ‘We got this Coach,’” head coach Bryan Goulding said. “I think they’re just playing with a lot of confidence right now.”
The Bulldogs edged the BWAC runner-up and three-time defending district champion Imlay City 43-40 earlier in the week, giving them exactly what they needed to take on Caro.
They remained in control through the third quarter at 35-22, but soon found themselves in a scoring drought. Caro crept within three, 39-36, with 1:55 remaining.
Goulding admitted he was getting nervous, but he sensed the determination in his team as the clock wound down. They dove for every loose ball, stayed disciplined in the press break, and focused at the free-throw line.
“They got off to a good start and they played with confidence,” he said. “When it got close at the end, I thought they believed in themselves and that the game was theirs no matter what, so they weren’t going to let Caro come and steal it from them at the end.”
Yale secured the 45-40 win at the free-throw line, shooting 6-for-8 as a team in the final two minutes.
Freshman Sadie Dykstra led the Bulldogs with 20 points and 14 rebounds while senior Abbi Dykstra chipped in with 10 points. Sophomore Alyssa Barr added 13 rebounds.
Defensively, Sadie Dykstra had four blocks, while sophomore Kimberly Martin and senior Gracie Ostrander each had three steals. Martin also made three of the final free throws.
Saturday’s championship marks the first district title for the Yale girls basketball team since 1994–more than a decade before any of its current members were even born.
“It felt really good. That was one of our goals at the beginning of the year. We thought we could compete for the league [title], but when that slipped away, we still knew we could be in the upper half of the league and we still had our goal to win districts,” Goulding said. “We just preached that it was within their abilities to do it.”
Yale will play in and host the Region 16 Semifinal Tuesday night against Goodrich. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m.
“The girls are pretty confident. They’re just happy they get to move on to the next round. Like I told them, ‘If you guys watch NCAA basketball, there’s a Cinderella every year, why can’t we be Cinderella?’” Goulding said. “That’s kind of their mentality, ‘Why not us?’ We’re the last BWAC team standing and nobody really expected us to win districts.”
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