HHS Girls Basketball
Hughson girls lose to TVL rival Riverbank in playoffs

Feb. 19, 2024

Hughson girls basketball coach Tim May loves his team and its players. He admires their passion for the game and their determination to do whatever it takes to win. It’s that attitude and work ethic that carried the Huskies to an improbable share of the Trans-Valley League title this season.

But May is also a realist. He knows that, in most cases, talent trumps effort. The team with the most good players usually wins.

Such was the case Thursday night in the second round of the Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV playoffs when Hughson found itself overmatched at almost every position and fell convincingly 63-36 to TVL rival Riverbank.

“They just outplayed us,” May said. “The girls tried, but Riverbank played at the level they should have all year. Actually, I think they have a chance to win the Section and make some noise in the state.”

Hughson (20-9) finished in a three-way tie with Riverbank (21-5) and Escalon (28-3) for the TVL championship. Each school beat the other once. The Huskies handed Escalon its first loss of the season on Jan. 18 and defeated Riverbank 55-44 on Feb. 1. But Hughson fell at home 43-36 to Escalon on the final night of the regular season to create a three-way tie for first place.

All three schools were seeded among the top five when the 16-team Division IV bracket was announced – Escalon at No. 3, Riverbank at No. 4 and Hughson at No. 5.

May figured that he would meet one of his TVL rivals again in the playoffs and, sure enough, the victories by Hughson and Riverbank in the first round set up a third game between them on Thursday night. Unlike the previous two contests, this one wasn’t particularly close.

The Bruins led from start to finish, putting together one of their best games of the season.

“There was no question who was the better team,” May admitted. “Riverbank played up to its potential. They put us away. I came into season saying Riverbank was by far the best team in our league and they played like it.”

Senior forward Madi Duron was Hughson’s one bright spot in the loss with 19 points and nine rebounds, but she couldn’t do it alone.

“She played her butt off,” May said. “We knew going in that we needed Madi to have a big game and Kareena (Kang) to have a big game and three other girls to score six points or so, and that didn’t happen. We really struggled the past two weeks, but that’s what happens when you run into better teams.”

Despite the disappointing finish, May believes Hughson “overperformed and outplayed our expectations.”

“We were back-to-back TVL champions and I don’t believe that’s been accomplished in quite some time,” he said. “I was proud of our girls. They just got outplayed by a better team. It wasn’t a matter of getting outworked. At the end of the day, it was just team skills.”

The Huskies will lose Duron (the team leader in points, rebounds and assists), Kang (the second-leading scorer) and four other seniors to graduation. With only one starter returning, May knows next season could look a little different.

The offseason program – which begins in late March and includes up to 22 games of travel ball in June and July – will be a key part of shaping next year’s roster.

“It could be one of the most fun seasons since we won’t come in with any expectations,” May acknowledged.

Meanwhile, the TVL will be well-represented when the Division IV semifinals tip off Tuesday night.

Riverbank will go on the road to face No. 1 seed Colfax (28-2), while Escalon hosts No. 7 West Campus (22-6) of Sacramento. The championship game will be played Saturday at UC Davis. All four schools already have qualified for the NorCal tournament, which begins next week.