SHAFTER — West has a winning pedigree with three consecutive CIF Southern California regional playoff appearances.
Leading the way during those years were players like Austyn Contreras, Jaylin Simpkins, Brock Simpson, Terry Phillips, Christian Broussard and Jonah Broom.
Now it’s up to the senior leadership of Donta Mason and Aaron Porter to lead the way with a group of talented, yet young guards if West wants another shot at a late postseason run.
That leadership of Mason and Porter came up big on Saturday afternoon in a 67-64 win over Foothill in the championship game of the Shafter Kiwanis boys basketball tournament at Shafter High.
Mason led West with 18 points and grabbed 10 rebounds, including a putback with 15 seconds left putting the Vikings (9-2) up 66-64.
“I thought the biggest play he had was the steal at the end,” West coach Tye Hammond said of Mason’s performance. “Donta’s maturity level from last year to this year is night and day, and it showed. It showed on the football field and now it’s turned over to basketball. He’s leading us, not only on the court but verbally in practice.”
With so many past standouts graduated, Mason appreciates taking on the lion’s share of the leadership role.
“I take big pride in it,” Mason said. “Coach talks to me everyday about being a leader for this team and that’s what I try to do.”
West nearly gave this one away.
Down 62-50 after Foothill coach Wes Davis was called for a technical foul for arguing with a referee, the Trojans went on a 12-0 to tie the game at 62-62 on a layup by Malik Tautau with 1:01 to play.
“At this point of the season, I’ve gotten used to it,” Hammond said. “We’ve got some younger guys and a lot of this stuff is great for them. All of these close games, they have to grow up during the games and that’s important.”
R.J. Sartin went to the line and converted on both free throws to put West back up by two before Alex Hernandez, who led Foothill with 19 points, made both free throws with :36 seconds left.
That’s when Mason grabbed a steal from Hernandez under the Vikings’ basket and laid it in for the go-ahead shot with 15 seconds to play.
The inability to close out the game after such a big run didn’t sit well with Foothill coach Wes Davis, but said he knows that’s the difference between a West team that has been to the state playoffs each of the previous three years against a Foothill team that had a winning record last year at 15-11 for the first time in more than a decade.
“We are still learning to win,” Davis said. “(West) knows how to win. That’s enriched in the school culture there. For us, we are still learning. So overall, I wanted to win this tournament, but I am still proud of my guys right now.”
Edward Turner added 13 points, six rebounds and seven blocks for Foothill and Bryan Diaz scored 18 points for the Trojans.
Porter recorded a double-double for West with 12 points and 13 rebounds as Sartin added 10 points.
Sophomore guard Adrian Daniels had eight points, five assists and four steals for the Vikings.
In the third place game, Shafter beat Highland 56-52 as Jose Maldonado led the Generals with 23 points.
Frontier, led by a 16-point performance by Lassarro Samano, beat South 46-35 for fifth place as Mira Monte beat Kern Valley 74-26 for the consolation championships as Lions’ junior Aymar Cazarez scored 47 points off 13 3-pointers in the win.