The Central Section girls basketball semifinals are set to tip off Wednesday, with all games scheduled for 7 p.m.
Here's a look at our local matchups, along with the potential outcomes:
No. 3 Independence (21-5, 9-1 SYL) at No. 2 Clovis North (25-4, 8-2 TRAC)
How they got there: After winning three consecutive Central Section Division II titles, Independence is now in D-I for the first time. The Falcons beat No. 6 Hanford 71-31 in the quarterfinals to advance. Clovis North was ranked top-5 in the state for a good part of the season before losing both league games to Clovis West. The Broncos, ranked No. 11 in the state, edged No. 7 Fresno-Central 69-67 in the quarterfinals.
Advantage: It has to go to the Broncos on numbers alone. Clovis North, a team without a senior on its roster, has only lost to No. 1-seed Clovis West (twice), King (ranked No. 4 in the state of Wisconsin), and state-ranked No. 4 North Hollywood-Harvard Westlake. Savannah Tucker had 29 points for Clovis North in the quarterfinals. While the numbers point to Clovis North winning this one, Independence — led by seniors Kahlaijah Dean and Dasia Wandick — has a championship pedigree and it showed in the quarterfinals win over Hanford. That could be a big plus for the Falcons and make for an intriguing matchup Wednesday.
No. 4 Shafter (24-2, 12-0 SSL) at No. 1 Bakersfield (18-4, 9-1 SWYL)
How they got there: Bakersfield is seeking a second consecutive D-II title-game appearance, as the Drillers gear up for their first playoff game of the season. BHS, the top seed, received byes in the first two rounds because D-II only had seven teams in the playoffs. In turn, the Drillers hope to be more well rested than rusty. Shafter, winners of 23 consecutive games, went undefeated in the South Sequoia League and beat Liberty 44-28 in the quarterfinals.
Advantage: As the No. 1 seed and at home, BHS has the advantage. Giving Taylor Caldwell two more weeks of rest and preparation can only help, after Caldwell missed nearly a month of action because of a knee injury suffered in December. In her absence McKenna Hsiung, Taylor Linzie, Kiara Frink and company kept the team rolling. Shafter has an explosive offense and can score inside and out with sophomore Monica Birrueta at guard and Vada Lewis leading the way inside.
No. 3 Selma (22-9, 8-2 CSL) at No. 2 Golden Valley (25-6, 8-2 SYL)
How they got here: Golden Valley earned the top seed following a second-place finish in the South Yosemite League behind Independence. The Bulldogs then opened the playoffs by beating Arvin (60-28) and Fresno-Roosevelt (56-48). Selma won the Central Sequoia League title and advanced to the section semifinals by edging out Frontier 58-56, then beating Tollhouse-Sierra 74-68 in overtime.
Advantage: Now in his ninth year at Golden Valley, head coach Curt Wilson may very well have his best team yet. With a third consecutive 20-win season, the Bulldogs are seeking the program’s first title game appearance. They're led by the trio of Tiffany Amos, Taja Holliday-Ball and Elyssa Brumfield, who are all averaging double figures. While Selma narrowly beat Frontier in the first round, then had to go to overtime in the quarterfinals, the Bulldogs playoff path to this point has been smoother. Got to figure Golden Valley will be playing at the former home of the Fresno State Bulldogs this weekend.
No. 4 Bakersfield Christian (21-8, 9-3 SSL) at No. 1 Hanford-Sierra Pacific (26-4, 10-0 ESL)
How they got there: Sierra Pacific has won 16 consecutive games, including blowout victories over Mira Monte (80-32) and Kerman (77-44) to open the playoffs. The Eagles finished in second place to Shafter in the SSL and beat Highland (57-33) and McFarland (58-35) to advance in the Central Section.
The advantage: The Golden Bears don’t seem to have a weak spot in the starting lineup. Five players average between 11.7 and 8.3 points per game, led by senior Haley Bettencourt and sophomore Celeste Lewis. Lanie Jackson (17.7 ppg) has been the offensive force for BCHS this season while freshman forward Dami Sule is a double-double machine with 9.7 points and 13.0 rebounds per game. If the Eagles fall behind early, Sierra Pacific will likely be back in the finals after winning the D-IV title last season.
No. Firebaugh (21-8, 9-1 WSL) at No. 1 East (15-12, 4-6 SYL)
How they got there: East finished fourth in the SYL, coming in behind fellow section semifinalists Independence and Golden Valley. The Blades beat Big Pine (74-15) and Visalia-Central Valley Christian (35-24) to advance. Firebaugh tied with Mendota for the West Sierra League title and beat Fowler (84-48) and Kern Valley (78-60) to advance.
The advantage: There is something to be said about a team at home in the semifinals seeking a shot at the program’s first section title. East senior Maryjane Jones has been spectacular this season, averaging 21.3 points per game, including a 52-point performance against Tehachapi in January. If Jones can have a big night and the Blades can contain Mirayha Gonzalez (17.1 ppg), Makenna Allen (14.1) and Marissa Gutierrez (11.3), East could be Selland-bound for the first time.
No. 3 Rosamond (20-10, 8-2 HDL) at No. 2 Chowchilla (15-12, 2-8 NSL)
How they got there: Rosamond finished second in the High Desert League and beat Wonderful Prep (59-37) and Corcoran (43-41) to advance in the section playoffs. Chowchilla finished in fifth place in the North Sequoia League and beat Coalinga (64-42) and Porterville-Granite Hills (54-39) in the opening rounds.
Advantage: The 434-mile round trip from Chowchilla to Rosamond is one of the longest in the Central Section, and that will play a factor in this game. Regardelss, Chowchilla is a team that's seen a better-quality of opponents and is led by a big post presence in Alison Cargill (14 points, 10 rebounds per game). If the Tribe can get the ball into Cargill, the drive back home will be much more enjoyable.