The Bakersfield Drillers are back in the same spot they were a year ago: Playing for a Central Section Division II girls basketball championship.
They just hope for a different outcome this time around.
BHS, the No. 1 seed in the tournament, will take on No. 3 Tulare-Mission Oak on Friday at 6 p.m. at Selland Arena in Fresno.
Last year the Drillers reached the title game, only to fall to local rival Independence, 54-49.
The Falcons moved into the Division I ranks this year, while the Drillers remained in D-II.
“We’re excited to be back,” said BHS head coach Rashaan Shehee. “We’ve been working all year long to get here. It’s been a long road. Hopefully we get different results.”
Shehee said this year's team is more seasoned for a championship push. The majority of the squad returned, he said, led by Taylor Caldwell (13.3 points, 5.2 rebounds per game), McKenna Hsiung (12.1 PPG) and Taylor Linzie (8.8 PPG, 7.0 RPG).
“Just a year of growth,” Shehee said. “You look at last year to this year, we’re just more of a veteran team. I think the year of maturity has helped us.”
After receiving byes in the opening two rounds of the playoffs before, the Drillers beat Shafter on Wednesday, 57-39, in the tournament semifinals.
Mission Oak beat No. 6 Visalia-Redwood, 58-41, in the quarterfinals and Yosemite, 61-46, in the semis.
Shehee thinks his team can benefit from last year’s defeat and come out on top in 2018.
“It came against an Independence team that had been there before,” Shehee said. “We started slow and lethargic. That’s one thing we’re looking for this year — to start off faster.”