HANFORD – A ranch foreman here continues to plow opponents in high school girls basketball, yet cries of dirty play are hardly heard.
In an era where brutal beatings in youth athletics often are condemned nationally, Hanford High's girls basketball program is instead hailed as a standard bearer under off-campus coach Tom Parrish despite winning often by unthinkable margins.
That included a 103-3 throttling of Kingsburg this season.
"I'll be honest," says junior Amber Carson, whose Vikings trailed the Bullpups 70-2 at halftime, "it's all about dedication and that's what Hanford has more than the rest of us. It's not about poor sportsmanship. Those girls work so hard to be that good. They beat us fair and square, and I had no problem with it."
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Yet a national alarm sounded when Christian Heritage walloped West Ridge Academy 108-3 in a Utah high school girls basketball game last month. The score found its way onto the Internet and in the "Go Figure" strip of Sports Illustrated.
The Central Section has a history of similar controversy in girls basketball, each case involving programs advanced far beyond most of their local competition.
That has been the case for years at Yosemite under coach Gary Blate, whose Badgers, for example, crushed Dos Palos 89-12 and 99-17 in 2006. And never has there been an outcry as furious as the one generated by Memorial and coach Mary Brown in the '70s. Memorial's 95-0 blitz of Madera in 1975 remains a state record for most points scored in a shutout.
Remarkably, protests have escaped Hanford, which surely will deliver another name-the-score win tonight at Mt. Whitney in the West Yosemite League, where the Bullpups have not only won 58 consecutive games, they've won by an average margin of 48 points.
Hanford, which found another level of competition Saturday in a 79-47 home-court loss to the nation's eighth-ranked St. Mary's-Stockton, is ranked 14th in the state a year after it went 31-4 and finished No. 8. The Bullpups have scored at least 100 points seven times in three years.
This season, Hanford also has beaten Mt. Whitney 94-7 and Golden West 78-3 in games that had the Pioneers (60-0) and Trailblazers (52-0) shut out at halftime.
Golden West coach Mark Avedian has lost to Hanford four times by an average of 67 points in two years, but never has he asked Parrish to say he's sorry.
"Actually, I've apologized to Tom," Avedian says. "I've said, 'Hey, I'm sorry we're not better.' He hasn't tried to run it up."
Avedian's sentiments are common among coaches in the WYL.
Louie Perez, Redwood's coach and WYL basketball representative has come no closer than 32 points to the Bullpups in seven losses spanning four seasons: "No one's ever complained to me and I'm the head of the league. Bottom line: They play hard, but Tom's not trying to run it up."
Parrish coaches as he manages vast Zoeneveld Farms in Kings County – with a firm grip and pursuit of rich harvest: "My priority is to achieve perfection."
It's been proven nationally, however, that such pursuit can cause alarm when a blowout results.
That West Ridge is a school for at-risk youth further tested the sensitivity of the issue and no doubt helped launch the story nationally out of Utah.
The school's coach and administrators reportedly didn't harbor ill feelings or ask for an apology. But they got it anyway from Christian Heritage's coach and players.
Depth and quality
At Hanford, the Bullpups' depth and quality of talent groomed in a youth program has even the most neutral and knowledgable observers reaching for answers.
Take Brian Tessler.
"The problem is Tom's ninth, 10th, 11th and 12th players are more talented than the starters they're playing against," says the Fresno City College women's basketball coach whose state fourth-ranked team has four Hanford products. "I don't know what else he can do but humiliate the game by having his players just stand there."
That, Kingsburg coach Nick Harrell says, would be truly demeaning. A year ago, Harrell's Vikings were marching toward a Central Sequoia League championship. Two months ago, in the Corcoran Tournament, they were trailing Hanford by 68 points at halftime.
"I didn't feel insulted one bit," Harrell says. "Tom pressed me for one quarter and none after that. I had a parent of one of my players comment to me after the game, 'What an awesome team you just played,' not that we had just got massacred. I said, 'I'm glad you recognize that.' "
Central Section commissioner Jim Crichlow does, too, but not without concern. Hanford's pattern of blowouts has caused him to ask questions. He has been told that Parrish routinely calls off the program's signature fullcourt press, clears his bench early and substitutes liberally.
That satisfies Crichlow: "Yes, but it's still frustrating and hard to explain to others."
Tradition and priorities
Parrish admits to hearing an occasional verbal "bashing" – like the Lemoore woman who yelped near courtside recently, "Why can't he be satisfied winning by 20?" in a game the Tigers lost 81-27.
Besides canceling presses and affording virtual equal playing time to players Nos. 1 through 12, he says he often instructs his offense to make a minimum of 10 passes and not shoot until the 30-second shot clock has ticked to at least 8; and, defensively, to have at least four players collapse and keep one foot in the key while the other guards the ballhandler.
"I feel as bad about [the routs] as anybody," he says. "But I don't know how to tell my kids not to go hard."
The defining issue in Hanford girls basketball appears to be more about tradition and priorities than Bullpups being Bullies.
Avedian, consistent with many programs in the area, coached 20 games with Golden West last summer. He said about half his players normally showed.
Parrish coaches 60 to 80 games with Hanford every summer: "Pretty much all my players show."
The Bullpups' season will end in March and they'll be back shooting a month later.
"Everybody thinks there's this factory over here, I've got the best talent in the world and that's why we win," Parrish says. "We win because we get in the gym and I'm a big fundamental teacher."
Youth feeder program
Playing girls basketball has long been a source of pride for the Bullpups, who captured a state Division II title in 2001 under coach Dwayne Tubbs and a deep cast of stars featuring the late Shawntinice Polk and Parrish's oldest daughter, Amy.
Younger sister Madison Parrish was 7 years old at the time. Dad didn't like what he saw regarding youth instruction, so he took it upon himself and developed a powerhouse youth program that has since been sustained by his brother, Jim.
Tom Parrish took over Hanford's varsity in 2005 and has gone 155-51 since with three consecutive section championships. He was named The Bee's Coach of the Year in 2008 and Cal-Hi Sports' Division II State Coach of the Year last season.
A D-III school for playoffs only three years ago, the Bullpups have now been elevated to D-I in the section's mission to achieve competitive equity. That means their enrollment of 1,650 will be matched against the likes of Clovis West's 2,440.
"We like to go to practice, work hard and put in the extra time," says Madison Parrish, a four-year starting point guard and 2009 Bee Player of the Year who is committed to Fresno State.
Her departure no doubt will be felt in the program, but there is nothing to suggest a significant dropoff will follow.
Take sophomore Bayli McClard's sister, Kate, an 11-year-old who wowed a recent crowd at Hanford by making a layup, free throw and 3-pointer to win a prize in a halftime shooting contest.
"Yeah, I want to come here and play basketball," she says.
Don't they all?