Midway through the third quarter, Bakersfield Christian assistant coach Garrett Brown barked out to Eagles standout senior guard Kadar Waller to concentrate more on the defensive end of the floor.
BCHS trailed Independence by four, and the command seemed to ignite the Eagles. Bakersfield Christian outscored the Falcons by 19 in the final 12 minutes of play in a 63-48 win at home on Friday night.
The win secures at least a share of the South Yosemite League title for BCHS in its first season in the SYL. The Eagles and Falcons came into the game tied for the league lead.
“He shouldn’t have to tell me to play defense,” Waller said. “He told me to take more pride in my defense and I knew I could do it, so I did.”
Waller scored eight of his 14 points during a 15-2 run as BCHS retook the lead for good.
But for BCHS head coach Kyle Shiloh, this game reminded him that he has a talented enough team to overcome adversity.
Good examples of this fact was when Ben Yurosek was called for his fourth foul 85 seconds into the third quarter, or the Eagles going 0 for 7 from behind the arc to start the game.
It also showed that the team can learn on the fly mid-game.
“As long as they listen to us and go out and do what we tell them and then show their potential, they always do well,” Shiloh said.
Independence built a 10-point lead early in the second quarter on a 12-0 run, when the Eagles couldn’t hit from long range and the Falcons (17-6, 7-2) capitalized.
Elijah Carter scored five of his 16 points during that spurt and Kathon Crawford scored a game-high 22 points for Independence.
“(BCHS) just had some jitters, you could tell,” Shiloh said. “We had our first play and they executed great. Then after that, they just got too loose. Once they settled down, they looked normal.”
BCHS (19-5, 8-1) plays Foothill on the road Monday in a non-league game between two of the top Central Section Division IV teams with the playoffs beginning on Feb. 14.
Independence finishes the regular season on the road at Ridgeview on Wednesday. The Falcons are a likely top-four seed in D-II.
The Eagles can win the outright league title at home against Golden Valley on Wednesday.
It almost was for naught, before the Eagles had an 11-4 run to end the first half after Seth Marantos hitting a 3-pointer at the buzzer.
BCHS hit five 3-pointers after not converting one in the first quarter, including two by senior Noah Taylor as the Eagles pulled away.
“It was all about shot selection,” Taylor said. “Every game is different. Some nights one guy is on, another night someone else is on. Through the adversity we have to win no matter what.”
Taylor finished with eight points, the lone BCHS starter to not score in double figures. Yurosek and Marantos added 12 and Lendl Henderson chipped in with 10. Henderson's effort included a thunderous one-handed dunk in the third quarter.
“As long as they listen to us and go out do what we tell them then go out there and show their potential, we always do well,” Shiloh said.