With about a minute left in Tuesday's girls basketball Central Section Division I semifinal and his team comfortably ahead, Stockdale coach Glenn Hager decided to savor the moment.
He went down the bench, slapping high fives with each of his players and coaches, relishing what could be his final home game as the Mustangs' coach.
If it was, what a way to go out: Stockdale 62, Fresno-Edison 48, and one last trip to Selland Arena in Fresno for the section championship for Hager and co-coach Charles Stewart, who are retiring after this season.
"This year has been really special," Hager said. "We've had so many trials and tribulations, playing with seven girls, five girls, six girls, injuries, whatever. And now we're going back."
Stockdale (24-4) advances to its seventh final in eight years to play Clovis West (22-5) at 6 p.m. Saturday at Selland Arena in Fresno.
Those are the top two seeds in the D-I bracket, but that was a matter of some contention. Hanford, which had won five section titles in a row between Divisions I and II, was the No. 3 seed. Various reports out of Hanford and Fresno said the Bullpups felt disrespected, and most considered Stockdale to be an unworthy No. 1.
Hanford fell 57-39 to Clovis West in the other semifinal, only the second loss in its past 116 section games. "It's the same thing as last year," said Hager, whose team lost 65-49 in the championship to Hanford a year ago. "Everybody said Hanford should be seeded No. 1. And, hey, Hanford is a great, great program. They've done a lot of things for basketball in the Central Valley. But we felt both years we had an argument, too."
The Mustangs made a strong one against Edison (26-7), which came in riding an 18-game winning streak. A 10-2 first-quarter run and a 13-0 spurt that spanned halftime staked Stockdale to a 36-19 lead, and Edison never got closer than nine afterwards.
"We didn't get back on D, we didn't beat the boards, and we didn't protect the ball," Edison coach Will Harris said. "Tonight we went back to old habits. We played more conservative than we had the whole year."
Nakia Page had 24 points for Stockdale, which had assists on 16 of its 21 field goals. Julia Pifer, filling in for the injured Jazmin Miller, had 13 points, as did Leigha Moland. And Dakota Oliver scored 9 points, had 12 rebounds and made 8 blocks.
Brittany Sims scored 20 points for Edison.
All in all, it was a No. 1-like performance from a team that nobody thought should have been seeded No. 1.
"Everyone expects us not to make it," Page said. "Everyone feeds off of being disrespected. We're going to be the underdog until we win the whole thing. Hopefully then Stockdale gets what we deserve."