This is the last of the boys hoops league previews. Next week, we'll do girls previews for each of the four major local leagues.
In the Southwest Yosemite League, Independence was tabbed unanimous favorite — but most of the votes were taken before Bakersfield beat the Falcons in overtime last week en route to beating Liberty in the final of the Lloyd Williams/Kern Schools tournament. Liberty is back in the semifinals of the East Bakersfield Winter Classic this week, against Fresno-Edison, which might well be the best team in the section (though Bullard, Central and Clovis West will have something to say about that).
Meanwhile, Stockdale is on a magical mystery tour, having played last week in a Morro Bay tournament and this week in Shafter. The Mustangs are unbeaten, but they haven't really been tested yet; their closest game was a 65-49 victory over Braxton Huggins and Mira Monte. So Stockdale is the wild card.
Can a favorite in Division III beat a bunch of Division I underdogs to this league title? That's the question.
1. Independence 25 (5)
2. Liberty 18 (1)
t3. Bakersfield 16
t3. Stockdale 16
5. Frontier 10
6. Centennial 5
(Coaches were asked between Dec. 5-11 to rank their league but were not allowed to rank their own team. Tallying was done on a 5-4-3-2-1 basis.)
Notes: Voting in this league was completed before the end of the Lloyd Williams tournament, in which Bakersfield edged Independence in overtime in the semifinals and then beat Liberty 61-51 in the championship. ... Even though Independence, which returns leading scorers Derek Check and Isaac Clark, was a unanimous No. 1 choice, coaches consistently used the phrase “wide open” to describe the league.” Liberty won the league last year but lost point guard Britton Williams, who is starting as a freshman for CSUB. Kyle Ferreira takes over at the point. ... Stockdale returns four of five starters, including guards Chris Ross and Alex Williams, from a team that was 3-7 in the SWYL last season. ... Bakersfield lost guards Tyrone Wallace to Cal and Derrick Brown to San Francisco State, but point guard Stephon Newsome led the Drillers to their fourth straight Lloyd Williams title anyway. ... Frontier lost point guard Michael Marcus (UC Merced) and big man Chris Bedke, but the Titans return forwards Jaz Thind and Corey Torczon. Torczon missed the 2011-12 season with an ACL injury. ... Centennial was winless in the SWYL a year ago but now features junior forward Isaac Espericueta, who missed last year because of disciplinary reasons. He started on the varsity as a freshman in 2010-11.
Quotable: “This is probably the most balanced league I’ve seen in a long time. There’s going to be a lot of 65-63 games going on in Feburary.” — Bakersfield coach Greg Burt
South Sequoia League boys
(Girls previews coming next week)