Noah Taylor is back.
The Bakersfield Christian junior guard had been struggling shooting the ball lately, BCHS head coach Kyle Shiloh said, but he broke out of his slump in a big way on Tuesday.
Taylor hit seven 3-pointers — including four in the third quarter — to lead No. 2 BCHS (25-6) to a 63-48 win over No. 3 Madera South (17-13) at home in the semifinals of the Central Section Division IV playoffs. The Eagles will move on to face No. 1 Kerman in the section championship game in Fresno on Saturday.
It’s the first trip to the section finals for BCHS since 2009.
“We had to do everything we could to win,” Taylor said, “and if I didn’t step up, it’s just one less chance of us winning. It’s all for the team.”
For Taylor, the difference was getting his mind right. He couldn’t overthink each shot attempt. He couldn’t be afraid to shoot. Confidence was the biggest factor, he added.
That revamped confidence was on full display coming out of halftime with a 30-29 lead. Taylor buried a contested 3-pointer from the top of the arc to start off the quarter.
A few possessions later, he sunk a triple from the wing. Madera South began chasing Taylor off the 3-point line but he came around a screen and hit one from the wing again. One more from the top of the circle gave the Eagles a 48-38 lead — its first double-digit lead of the game.
“It felt really good,” Taylor said. “I haven’t felt that feeling in a long time. It’s good to just feel like I’m back and hopefully I can carry that over into the next game.”
Taylor has an “ultra-green” light, Shiloh said, and Taylor took full advantage.
The BCHS lead never shrunk down to fewer than nine after that. The Eagles had help building the lead because Madera South eventually had to give point guard Junior Segura — who scored 20 in the game — some rest.
Segura had nine points in the third quarter before he went to the bench with the Stallions down by four. Madera South scored just one more point the rest of the quarter and BCHS took a 51-39 lead into the fourth.
“We didn't expect that,” Shiloh said of Segura’s performance. “Even on film, I didn’t see that. But you got to give it to him, he played great.”
Segura’s speed helped him get around the BCHS guards and touch on his layups helped him finish over the bigs. But by the fourth quarter, the Eagles focused in on him and he was likely a little worn down. Segura didn’t record a point in the final frame.
“He was really quick,” Taylor said, “and he could finish like crazy. His floaters were on point every time.”
Madera South hung around in the fourth, but when BCHS sophomore Ben Yurosek finished a layup through a foul to put the Eagles up 62-48 with less than a minute-and-a-half left, the game was all but decided.
“That’s game,” Yurosek appeared to yell as he celebrated the initial bucket and the future trip to Fresno.
“It’s gonna be fun,” Shiloh said of the impending section title game. “That’s it. When you work this hard all year and you get to play on the big stage like that, it’s just fun. That’s why we do it.”