Ice cold Broncs drop CIF semi-final game to Foothill

Photo by Summer Kirby

By Mike Blake

Brooklynn Robertson Photo by Kayley Sietsma

The Kern Valley girls basketball team saw a brilliant season come to an end when they faced an inspired and red-hot Foothill High School team in the 2024 CIF Central Section Girls basketball Championship semi-finals, February 21. The Trojans, who went on to win the CIF Finals, handed the No.1-seeded Lady Broncs (16-8) their worst defeat of the year, marching to a 60-27 win over KV. No. 5 Foothill (14-15) who played better than their record, have a 100-pt. scoring advantage over their opponents this season (1129-1029) and stretched their winning streak to five straight. The Lady Broncs finished with a 1091-918 scoring advantage over their opponents.

The Lady Broncs, who had finished second in HDL play, marched into the semi-finals by dispatching No. 16-seeded Baker, 66-23 and No. 9 Summit Charter 62-44 before falling to Foothill.   

Kern Valley went in with optimism, having defeated Foothill in a tournament on November 29 by a 42-30 score. This time, it was all Foothill as KV could not find the basket on an ice-cold shooting night. The Trojans were on point from the beginning. The Broncs fell behind early and trailed after one quarter 16-8. The deathblow was delivered in the second quarter, in which the Broncs were outscored 17-4 to own a 33-12 halftime lead. KV came out aggressively in the third quarter and fought to a 13-12 frame with the Trojans adding a point to their lead. Entering the fourth, trailing 46-24, the Broncs could not muster a charge and fell 14-3 to a 60-27 defeat. 

Elli Jeans Photo by Kayley Sietsma

KV’s shooting was off-target at seven-for-50 from the field and 13-for-33 at the line. Kern Valley saw stellar play from junior Jessie Bunting, who scored 13 of the team’s 27 points. Freshman Leenah Troller and sophomore Jayda Bushling each scored four, sophomore Elli Jeans chipped in with three, Junior Ava Elliott added two and senior Brooklynn Robertson sank a free throw. On the boards, the Broncs got 11 rebounds from  Bunting and 10 from Bushling. Elliott and Robertson each hauled down six and Troller pulled down four. Bushling helped the offensive cause with five of the team’s six assists and she grabbed four steals, Troller also picked off four steals and Elliott had three takeaways. Bushling also had the team’s only blocked shot.

Foothill moved on to the finals to play Bishop Union (16-8) who finished third in the HDL, with an 8-4 league mark, a game behind Kern Valley. Bishop reached the finals by defeating No. 6 Chowchilla 36-32, for the Broncos’ sixth in a row. In the final, Foothill continued its run and knocked off Bishop in the Finals, 39-27.

Jayda Bushling Photo by Kayley Sietsma

The Lady Broncs will lose seniors Brooklynn Robertson, Kassidy Sietsma, Emily Warnock and Hailee Kopperman to graduation, but should see as many as eight returning players to lead next year’s squad. Returning will be the team’s top three scorers and rebounders – Jessie Bunting (junior), Jayda Bushling and Ava Elliott (junior) and the top three assist-dishers – Bushling, Elli Jeans (sophomore) and Elliott. Bushling, Jeans and Elliott also led the team in defensive steals, and freshman guard Leenah Troller emerged as a starter late in the season and should be a difference-maker next year.