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In 2017-18, Michael Bloodworth's first campaign as the Pioneer Valley girls basketball coach, the Panthers won three games all season and none in the PAC 8 League.

In Bloodworth's second year as coach, with the Panthers as CIF Central Section newcomers after moving from the Southern Section, Pioneer Valley went 17-9, 11-1 and shared the inaugural Ocean League championship with Nipomo.

Bloodworth is the Lee Central Coast Newspapers All-Area Coach of the Year. Nipomo coach David Mendez and Orcutt Academy coach Tom Robb were also strong candidates.

Orcutt Academy finished a solid third in the Ocean League and qualified for the post-season after missing the playoffs last year.

Bloodworth said as the 2018-19 season went along, and he said again earlier this week, that there was no single moment in which the Panthers turned the corner.

"As the girls started playing more, as they started to learn how to close out games, the confidence just grew," Bloodworth said.

The Panthers' lone league loss was to Nipomo. The Panthers and Titans split their two-game season series, with the road team winning each time.

Bakersfield Liberty rallied to edge the Panthers 59-53 in the first round of the Central Section Division 2 playoffs. Still, it was a banner season for Bloodworth and his team.

Ocean League and Girls All-Area MVP Ravynn Anielski, a junior shooting guard, led the Panthers. Junior point guard Aaliyah Moreno and freshman Chyanna Medina Tell also had solid campaigns.

Moreno and Tell both made the All-Ocean League First Team and they, along with Anielski, will be back next year. Bloodworth will lose two starters from his 2018-19 squad, Letty Medina and Brianna Robles, to graduation.

"We'll have a fair competition," to fill those vacant starting spots for next season, said Bloodworth.

Bloodworth said his 2019-20 team will follow the same modus operandi that worked for his previous team - a lot of summer work together, followed by a lot of pre-season work together.

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"The foundation was laid," last summer, he said.

Bloodworth said at one point last season, "Last year, I was getting to know the girls, what system worked best for them. It's still a work in progress."

As the campaign went along, the progress was good enough for the Panthers to have one of the most successful seasons in school history.

Pioneer Valley's hallmark was a brisk pace all around, with an up-tempo offense and a pressure defense. The Panthers made that work in the Ocean League.

Apparently next season, they will see how their style translates in the Mountain League.

"Nipomo moved up to the Mountain League, and they invited us to join them," Bloodworth said with a chuckle.

The Mountain League, with the exception of Nipomo, will be comprised of bigger, former PAC 8 League Schools.

Bloodworth said former PAC 8 League crosstown rival St. Joseph, whom Pioneer Valley tied for the PAC 8 League championship in 2014, "will move down to the Ocean League," after playing in the Mountain League in 2019.

"I think we'll be able to compete," in the Mountain League, Bloodworth said.

He chuckled, "They leveled the playing field. A lot of people graduated.

"Next year will be this team's third year playing together, and I think it's going to be their best year together," the LCCN All-Area Coach of the Year said.

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Sports Reporter

Kenny Cress, sportswriter for the Santa Maria Times since September of 2000. BA in political science from Cal Poly Pomona. BA in journalism from Cal State Northridge.