BY STEPHEN LYNCH
Who are the best local boys and girls high school basketball teams this year?
It’s an intriguing question. One that in past seasons would have gone without a definite answer.
Any debate over who is the best in Bakersfield (and Tehachapi) will be decided on the court with all 18 teams from the three local leagues (SYL, SEYL, SWYL) competing in the first ever South Yosemite Conference Championships.
The tournament, which began on Saturday with play-in games that cut the boys and girls brackets down to 16 teams each, resumes with all 16 first round games being played today (Monday). The quarterfinals will take place on Tuesday, followed by the semifinals on Wednesday.
The championships games will be Thursday 5 p.m. (girls) and 7 p.m. (boys) at North High.
Both title games will be livestreamed on www.kernhighnetwork.com and on Facebook Live: Kern High Network.
The winning teams will receive a championship plaque. Players on the winning team will receive commemorative t-shirts.
“At the end of the year there’s always conversations about which team is best, and this league champ versus this league champ, who is better?” North High boys coach A.J. Shearon said. “A lot of time you see those teams early in the year. But this give us the opportunity now to see each other at the end of the year, to really kind of get that last run before playoffs, not just bragging rights but to challenge yourself. I think it will be good for our fans and our community to get out and see some of these teams now that we’re hopefully playing our best basketball of the year.”
The competition to win the tournament on both the boys and girls side of things is expected to be highly-competitive.
The three boys league champions, Bakersfield High (SWYL), Bakersfield Christian (SYL) and North (SEYL), all went undefeated in league-play.
BHS (20-8) is the boys No. 1 seed. BCHS (17-5) is No. 2, followed No. 3 Garces (15-9), No. 4 Independence (15-6), and No. 5 North (15-9).
The Drillers, led by All-Area forward David Whatley, enter the SYC Championships riding an 11-game winning streak.
BHS with its aggressive pressure defense, has allowed opponents to score an average of only 46.8 points per game this season.
“The leagues haven’t been super competitive like they usually are, so getting the cross-match will be really interesting,” Shearon said.
Like the BHS boys team, the Drillers girls squad is also seeded No. 1.
The BHS girls, champions of the SWYL, have won 20 games in a row. While the Drillers (22-2) are the clear-cut favorite, they will be challenged by several solid teams including second-seeded Tehachapi (15-1, SYL Champions), and SWYL rivals No. 3 Frontier (18-5), No. 4 Liberty (11-11), No. 5 Stockdale (14-9) and No. 6 Centennial (14-12).
Mira Monte, the girls SEYL champions this year, is seeded No. 7.
Kern High School District Director of School Support Services Stan Greene came up with the idea for the SYC Basketball Championships after successfully orchestrating the inaugural SYC Wrestling Championships tournament last year.
Greene said all the feedback he has received regarding the SYC Basketball Championships has been extremely positive.
“I’m really excited that all the coaches have bought into this conference championship,” Greene said. “When you have the coaches buy in it and they’re excited about it and they want to do it, you know that you’re doing something right.”
Shearon, a highly successful coach at Liberty from 2011-16 and now at North the past two seasons, thinks the tournament benefits players, coaches, and fans.
“This is something we’ve talked about in the basketball community for a long time,” Shearon said. “…The feedback I’ve got back from my peers (other coaches); they’re excited. They think it’s something that’s going to be cool for the kids and for the town. I encourage people to come out and see some of these matchups and get a feel for it. Because I think once people get their eyes on it, they’re going to think it’s really cool.”