FRESNO — Championship winning teams will usually hold one finger in the air during pictures with trophy and banner. Most of the players for the Bakersfield High girls basketball team, though, showed two fingers each to the several cameras pointed in their direction.
“Put the twos up,” one of them yelled as the team assembled at half court. “Back-to-back.”
It wasn’t just a Central Section Division II title that the Drillers won on Friday night at Selland Arena in Fresno. It was BHS’ second straight section championship and second for third-year head coach Rashaan Shehee and his staff. The No. 1 Drillers (24-3) beat No. 2 Yosemite (26-5), 47-42, to win “Valley.”
The win was the 24th of the season for the Drillers, the program’s most wins since 2007-08.
“We always talk about Driller dominance,” BHS senior guard Kiara Frink said. “We can go back to Bakersfield and say we did it back-to-back.”
Frink led BHS with 19 points, hitting three of her four 3-point attempts. Yosemite senior guard Grace Fries scored a game-high 20 points with a 5-for-14 performance from 3-point range.
The Badgers started three players 5 feet, 10 inches or taller (5-foot-10 Sophie McGoldrick, 5-foot-10 Hailey Rich and 6-foot-1 Courtney Hart). BHS was able to counteract it with athletic, physical play inside. McGoldrick, Rich and Hart had three combined points at halftime, while BHS led 26-21.
Frink’s 3s came at critical times for the Drillers. She hit one at the buzzer before the end of the third quarter. Another early in the fourth quarter gave the Drillers their biggest lead of the game at 12 points (45-33).
“I kind of got hot,” Frink said. “I was knocking a few down. I wanted to stretch the lead a little bit more.”
With a few 3s of their own from Fries, the Badgers fought back to trail by only four with about 30 seconds left.
BHS junior forward Taylor Linzie, who is 5-foot-8, battled down low with the Yosemite bigs all game long. She finished with five rebounds and eight points. Despite the Drillers’ size disadvantage overall, they constantly drove into the paint to dish or draw a foul. They also sped Yosemite up for transition baskets and 17 Badgers turnovers.
Yosemite didn’t utilize the post through set plays on offense, just on the offensive and defensive glass. The Badgers did take advantage of backdoor cuts from the 3-point line that Shehee said “killed” the Drillers at times. Yosemite jumped out to an 8-2 lead early in the first quarter.
BHS was in the section title game for the fourth year in a row.
“It’s always hard to go back-to-back,” Shehee said. “Everybody’s really gunning for you. And with them gunning for us, we still did it again, so. I don’t want to talk about three-peat or nothing like that. But I’m just gonna live in the moment of the back-to-back.”
“You want to talk about (three-peat), then talk to her,” Shehee added, pointing to Linzie.
“I think so,” Linzie said later regarding if the team can win three straight next year. “They got me, you know,” she said with a laugh.