Well, it’s that time of year again.
Central Section playoff time in Bakersfield, both in boys and girls soccer and boys and girls basketball.
While a large handful of local soccer teams will be playing in section semifinals on Tuesday, first-round basketball games tip off Tuesday (boys) and Wednesday (girls).
With that, here are a few things that have caught my eye during my first winter sports season in Bakersfield:
What can BCHS do?
Go far — at least it appears the Eagles look poised to make a run entering Tuesday’s opening round.
The team is a No. 2 seed in the Central Section Division IV brackets and holds a 22-6 overall record.
Kyle Shiloh has done a magnificent job in his second year as coach. The former Garces standout — who then took the court collegiately at Nevada and professionally overseas — took over the BCHS program and the team has taken off.
Bakersfield Christian runs solid systems on both sides of the ball — “we try playing to right way,” Shiloh said.
Big man Ben Yurosek has been a standout, Shiloh said. The head coach was also quick to point out solid play from junior guards AJ Walton, Noah Taylor and Eric Buetow; and the emergence of freshmen Seth Marantos and Lendl Henderson Jr.
Last year the Eagles finished with a 15-13 overall record and advanced to the second round of the Central Section tournament.
“This year we’re a much better team and have much higher goals,” Shiloh said. “But we’re also young. Young and talented. Anything can happen game to game, and we have to take one game at a time.”
BCHS tips off play at home, in a 7 p.m. contest against No. 15 Sierra Pacific.
Gotta give it up for Independence, first year coach
The Independence girls soccer team was solid last year, but first-year head coach Jordan Shwora has picked up right where the program had left off.
The Falcons went 16-3-1 this year and 10-0 in South Yosemite League play. They haven’t stopped there, however. Independence is seeded No. 1 in the Central Section Division III bracket and, after a first round bye, beat No. 9 Lemoore, 2-1, in last week’s quarterfinals.
The Falcons take the field again in Tuesday’s semifinals against No. 4 Reedley. The game will be played at Independence, and is scheduled to get underway at 6 p.m.
“When we met last year, that was what we talked about. I’m not here to win the league, I’m here to win a Valley title. And that’s the goal,” Shwora said. “It’s always been the Valley title that we’re working towards.”
Lemoore was not an easy opponent by any stretch, Shwora said, and he was quick to point out the three teams remaining in the Division III bracket are seeded one-through-four.
“The best teams are still in it,” he said.
Still, the Falcons have been one of them this season as well. Independence possesses one of the section’s elite goal scorers in senior Mia Ontiveros — who’s tallied nearly 40 markers this year — and Schwora added the Falcons are particularly powerful in their midfield.
Shwora has also coached local soccer the past seven years with South Valley Soccer Club.
Young Garces team making moves
In boys soccer, Garces has emerged under fourth year head coach Justin Finch.
The Rams enter Tuesday’s Division III semifinals as a No. 2 seed, and holding a 15-7-3 overall record. They host Chavez at 6 p.m. for the right to play for a section championship.
Finch, a Garces graduate who played collegiately at Cal State Bakersfield, said the Rams had finished at the bottom of the Southwest Yosemite League standings for the past 10 years before placing third this year with a 5-4-1 SWYL record.
They’ve done it on the strength of a youthful roster. Finch said the Rams starting lineup in their last game featured two seniors, two juniors, six sophomores and a freshman.
“They’ve done a great job this year just from a growth and maturity standpoint,” Finch said.
The Rams leading goal scorers are sophomores — Moises Cisneros (15 goals) and Ebu Ekpemogu (14).
Goakeeper Jaime Tiscareno is just a junior.
Finch was also quick to give credit to senior captains Luke Champness and Andres Ornelas.
“They’ve had to go through the building years. They helped pave the way,” Finch said. “Good kids, good morals on and off the field. Academically, and in their hustle and play.”
Will East make history?
In girls basketball, East High School is looking for its first Central Section championship.
The Blades are the No. 1 seed in Division V, and will host No. 16 Big Pine on Wednesday at 5 p.m.
East had competed in recent years in Division IV, and the fact the Blades dropped down to D-V coupled with their No. 1 seeding, and things are at least lining up appropriately entering the postseason.
“We’re excited. We’ve played in a tough league (South Yosemite) and we think that will help and prepare us for this,” Sharp said. “There are good teams in that division, but we also feel good and confident about our team.”
The Blades have gotten a shot in the arm from junior forward Jackie Mejorado, who is averaging 14 points and 12 rebounds per game, Sharp said.
Of course there’s also the standout play of senior point guard MaryJane Jones, who’s averaging 21.5 points per game this season.
Sharp said Jones, a four year starter, helped guide the Blades through some lean years on the court before the team’s 2018 campaign.
“She’s carried this program on her back in a lot of ways,” Sharp said. “I’m happy for her, and proud of her.”