The Bakersfield Christian boys basketball may have a few weaknesses, but lack of confidence isn’t one of them.
The Eagles’ swagger was in full force in Tuesday night’s South Yosemite League showdown at Independence.
BCHS turned up the defensive pressure in the second half, limiting the Falcons to just two field goals in the third quarter, and pulled away for a 67-38 victory that clinched the SYL title for the second straight year.
“We’re just clicking right now,” said first-year Bakersfield Christian coach Garrett Brown of the Eagles, who won the SSL title in 2017-18. “I feel like we’re one of the hottest teams in the state and we’re the hottest team in the section right now. And when we’re playing like this, we’re hard to beat.”
The Eagles (16-5, 9-0) have won 14 of their last 15 games after starting the season 0-3 while they waited for key players such as 6-foot-5 Ben Yurosek to join the team after leading the football team to a CIF State Division-3 championship. Bakersfield Christian's only loss during that stretch was a 70-69 loss to Clovis West, the top-ranked team in the section.
Now BCHS wants to be in the conversation for a state basketball title.
“They can put us in Division 3 or open (for playoffs), I don’t care,” Brown said. “I have the ultimate confidence in my guys. I don’t care who we play. We’re ready. We’re ready to go.”
Bakersfield Christian never trailed in the game and led 21-7 at the end of the first quarter on the strength of three 3-pointers by Zach Hiebert and six points from Lendl Henderson Jr., including one basket off a perfectly timed lob pass from junior point guard Seth Marantos.
As it turned out, Henderson and Marantos were just getting warmed up. The 6-5 junior finished with 16 points, sinking 9 of 12 free throws.
Marantos also made key contributions at both ends of the floor, controlling the offense and distributing the ball to BCHS’s variety of weapons. He finished with nine points.
“We’re playing like this strictly off of defense,” Marantos said. “We’re playing hard, competing … we’re just trying to prove that we’re the best in the city.
“I’d say we’re going in a really good direction. Defensively, we’re really buckling down and really taking pride in it. Holding teams under 40 … that’s big time. But that’s just pretty much the biggest thing.”
Trailing by 14 at the end of the first quarter, the Falcons (14-6, 7-2) closed the cap in the second quarter thanks to five quick points from D’Amonte Moten and another five from Garrett Moreno to trim BCHS’ lead to 25-17 with 3:13 left in the half.
But Marantos scored five points to spark a 14-3 Eagles’ run to start the second half. Henderson capped things off with a corner 3 off a drive and kick by Yurosek with 3:31 left in the third quarter.
“It feels good (to win the SYL title),” Marantos said. “It’s good to get the first (goal) out of the way and gives us momentum.
Yurosek also had a big night, controlling the boards and finishing strong at the rim for a game-high 17 points. The BVarsity All-Area football player of the year had seven points in the third quarter, including a driving two-hand dunk that gave the Eagles a 47-25 lead with 1:15 left in the period.
“They’re playing so much better and I’m coaching so much better,” Brown said. “So it’s a combination of both. They believe in me, I believe in them and we’re just rolling right now.”