His business done -- and done well -- for the evening, Liberty boys basketball coach A.J. Shearon stepped outside the school's muggy gym Thursday night and immediately started scrolling through text messages.
He was looking for updates from other games involving Southwest Yosemite League teams, hoping that they would join his Patriots in the Central Section Division I semifinals after Liberty dismantled Clovis West, 58-41.
"We wanted to show we were for real, and we wanted the SWYL was for real," Shearon said, glancing up. "I really just want our league to show how good it is."
Turns out, Liberty (20-7) will have to carry the flag for the SWYL after Stockdale lost a 77-73 decision at three-time defending champion Fresno-Bullard and No. 8 seed Bakersfield nearly stunned No. 1 Fresno-Central but came up short. The Drillers led by 15 points after three quarters but lost, 84-83 in overtime.
Still, the league has one pretty good representative left. No. 2 seed Liberty never trailed Thursday and will play host to No. 6 Fresno-Edison in Tuesday's semifinals.
The Patriots won the Division II section title in 2010, but this is the furthest they've advanced in the D-I playoffs -- and the furthest any Kern County team has gone since 2011 Bakersfield. No local team has reached the boys Division I final since the championships moved to Fresno's Selland Arena in 2005.
"With the support we've had from our fans, and to do this against Clovis West, a perennial section power, it's huge for our program," Shearon said. "We wanted to show that we take basketball seriously, and we stepped up tonight."
Liberty pulled away from Clovis West (19-9) in an unusual way. The Patriots lead 15-12 when leading scorer Kyle Ferreira went to the bench with two fouls with six minutes remaining in the half. But without Ferreira, Liberty ended the half on an 11-1 run to take a 26-13 lead. Clovis West never got closer than that in the second half.
"We knew as a team we needed to come together, buckle down on defense and get rebounds," said senior Bray Barnes, who only scored two points but had 13 rebounds and 6 blocks. "Not many of us can go for 20 (points) like Kyle, so we had to do it in other ways."
Braylin Scott opened the game with a 3-pointer and finished with 15 to lead all scorers. He also had 10 rebounds. Ferreira finished with 10 points.
"We're so relient on Kyle offensively, but those guys played really well with him on the bench," Shearon said.
On the other side of the floor, Clovis West suffered through a poor shooting night made worse by a rebounding deficiency.
"They pretty much played good team defense and locked down the boards, and we didn't show up," Golden Eagles coach Tom Orlich said. "We struggled the whole night offensively, and when you do that, sometimes it zaps the energy out of you in all facets."
Jakari McClain had 10 points to lead Clovis West, which scored nine straight points midway through the fourth quarter to cut the lead to 13. But Liberty was well in control by that point.
"We tried to get going, but we never really put a dent in things," Orlich said.
Instead, the Patriots dented the idea that a Bakersfield team can't reach Selland Arena in Division I. The next obstacle is Edison.
"This is a big step," Barnes said. "Now we've got another one where we've got to do the same thing. I really think we can win Valley."