After Clovis-Buchanan looked to have left just enough of an opening for Bakersfield to plow through, Alina Garcia slammed the door shut.
Garcia led all scorers with 20 points and her clutch 3-pointer midway through the fourth quarter stopped a furious Driller run, leading the Bears to a 53-44 win in semifinal play of the Division 3-A Girls Basketball Championships Thursday.
After beating the Bears 69-56 in the Central Section semis just nine days earlier, the Drillers struggled to get anything going offensively and things seemed dire after Buchanan opened up a 40-29 lead with under two minutes to play in the third quarter.
But sparked by an Anaya Sanders putback, Bakersfield embarked on a 12-2 run, getting within a point following a Faith Curry jumper.
But having already connected on three triples to that point, Garcia got an open look for her most important shot of the night, pushing the lead back to 45-41 and seemingly deflating the Drillers, who were then held scoreless for the ensuing three-plus minutes.
"They definitely hit some big shots that affected us," Driller coach Rashaan Shehee said. "We were defending ... then a big shot, that does kind of deflate you a bit."
Ashtyn Arnold added 19 points for the Bears and closed the game out by hitting six consecutive free throws late in the fourth quarter.
Alexis Killebrew had a game-best 11 points for Bakersfield, which finishes the season 9-2.
Though an unusual season ended one game shy of the state title game for Shehee and the Drillers, the coach was mostly satisfied with the effort.
"I'm very proud of my girls and happy for the way they fought," he said. "(Without) a chance to really prepare, (without) a chance to play that many games, my girls did a good job."