Lady Fortune must be in the corner for the Kerman High School boys basketball team.
Take these two instances:
1) With Bakersfield Christian High making a comeback minutes after giving up a precarious 43-42 lead, the Bakersfield school appeared to gain the momentum when 6-foot-6 sophomore forward Ben Yurosek stole a long pass. However, the ball rolled out of bounds off his foot.
2) On the ensuing possession, Kerman senior Daniel Rico was standing outside the 3-point line when a loose ball rolled up to him. After clutching the ball, he launched a 3-point shot that gave the Lions a 50-44 lead with 1:15 left in the game.
Kerman escaped with a 55-49 win to claim the Central Division IV championship on a Selland Arena floor that needed some duct tape to repair the floor near the free throw area on the south end.
The ball bounced in the right direction for other teams as well:
▪ The Chowchilla High girls went 2-8 in the North Sequoia League this season but came through in a win over Firebaugh High for the Division V title.
▪ San Joaquín Memorial freshman Samaria Velázquez didn’t score any points, but had four steals to help San Joaquín Memorial claim the Division IV championship with a win over Sierra Pacific.
“It’s amazing,” said Kerman High’s Rico. “I’ve been looking forward to this since I was in the eighth grade. I made it my mission to get here.”
Kerman coach Tim Hurt was happy to see his team improve to 29-3 after 1-point semifinal playoff losses the last two seasons.
“Sometimes we don’t have the flashiest players, but sometimes we have the right players,” said Hurt. “It’s a great feeling to have the community come out today.”
Hurt estimated there were up to 1,000 Kerman rooters at the noon game. It helped, he said, that rain washed out many other high school activities taking place outdoors.
Hurt told his players to have “patience. Don’t try to win it all with one shot,” he recalled telling his team after it fell behind by as many as five points early in the fourth quarter.
Kerman, which won its 15th consecutive game, took an 11-8 lead after the first quarter but found itself behind, 20-19, going into halftime.
A layup by senior guard Hunter Macías with 3:50 left in the third quarter gave Kerman a 33-23 lead. Bakersfield Christian, now 25-7, then began to chip away.
Rico – who almost averaged a triple double during the season with 16.1 points, 10.4 rebounds and 9.6 assists per game – was so focused on the task at hand that he “didn’t realize the game was over.”
“It’s crazy! It was a great scene,” he said.
The winning didn’t come easy this basketball season for Chowchilla High junior Samantha Rico, whose junior varsity team went 24-0.
“I was used to winning,” said the Chowchilla High School forward who scored six points and grabbed eight rebounds in Friday’s 49-41 Central Section Division V championship game at Selland Arena.
Chowchilla improved to 17-12 with the win, and helped Rico erase the trials and tribulations of a 2-8 record in the North Sequoia League.
“It’s a tough league,” said a happy head coach Don Smith. “It prepared us for the playoffs. There are a lot of Division 2 and Division 3 teams there.”
Chowchilla got off to a slow start, missing six of its first eight free throws in the opening quarter and trailed 11-7.
“Nerves,” said Smith, who watched his team battle to take a 25-23 halftime lead.
Firebaugh’s top scorer, junior Mirayha Gonzales sat out most of the game with foul trouble and finished with 11 points. She had averaged 17.2 points going into the game.
“She doesn’t just lead us in scoring, but leads us in spirit,” said Firebaugh coach Betty Carmona.
Chowchilla ran up double-digit leads in the fourth quarter and eased into its fifth straight win.
League play at the varsity level, said Rico, was difficult to adjust to. Four of her teammates also played on the junior varsity team last season.
“It was definitely different,” said said. “We had to work harder and work together.”
Just when it appeared that the Sierra Pacific High girls were on their way to a Central Section Division IV championship Saturday morning (March 3) at Selland Arena, San Joaquín Memorial freshman Samaria Velázquez showed up to steal the show.
Although the 5-foot-7 guard missed all six shots and two free throws she took, her value was spotlighted in the decisive third quarter when Memorial erased a 20-15 halftime deficit with a 20-8 scoring spree.
“At halftime, it was just let us stay close in the game,” said Velázquez, who came up with a team-high four steals. “If we can keep it close, then we can push the ball.”
Velázquez said the 58-51 win over Sierra Pacific of Hanford was a total team effort.
“I’m just glad that I could help,” said Velázquez.
The missed free throws, she added, “was a fluke. I usually do pretty well.”
Those missed shots were forgotten after Memorial, now 22-5, erased an early 20-10 deficit and scored the final five points of the first half to go into the locker room trailing 25-20.
Symya Murray, who scored 14 points, tied the game at 31-31 with 3:36 left in the third quarter.
Teammate Sarah Garrett then created mayhem under the basket by wrestling two offensive rebounds and scoring. By that point, Memorial had a 38-31 advantage.
Garrett grabbed a game-high 15 rebounds.
The closest that Sierra Pacific could get after that was three points (54-51 with 2:12 left in the game.
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