FRESNO — There was no big celebration like the dog pile the game before. The California City boys basketball team just shook one another’s hands and hugged. The only real standout reaction was senior Raymond Powell dancing next to the rest of the group.
It was like Cal City had been there before — because it had.
The No. 1-seeded Ravens (26-6) took down No. 3 Corcoran, 77-68, at Selland Arena in Fresno to win the Central Section Division V boys basketball championship for the second year in a row. Cal City trailed by five at halftime but outscored No. 3 Corcoran (20-10), 46-32, the rest of the way.
“That’s how we felt,” Cal City junior Cameron Jarmon said of the lack of celebration. “Last year, we celebrated a little too much ... and we went first round in (the) state (playoffs) and lost. We ready this year. We ready to take a state title.”
The Ravens opened the game with traps near half court instead of their normal full-court pressure. It forced a few turnovers early but eventually Corcoran solved the puzzle. The Cal City offense was just 3-for-20 from 3-point in the first half, too.
Cal City didn’t play with its full effort in the first half, Jarmon said, because the team was over-confident it would win the game.
The message at halftime from Ravens head coach Ronald Fleming was to get back to what the team normally does.
“We went back to our strength: played 94 feet of defense and just scored some points,” Fleming said.
Cal City was three players short of its normal 15-man roster because three players didn’t get their grade checks in on time, Fleming said, but it was still able to use the entire bench and wear down the Panthers.
The Ravens scored 10 straight to start the third quarter before a timeout from Corcoran. When Corcoran tied the game at 60 apiece in the fourth, Cal City rattled off nine in a row.
The runs were fueled by steals, layups and made 3s.
“I felt as though they got tired and gave us an opportunity,” Fleming said.
Cal City’s playoff fate was thrown into limbo after it beat Frazier Mountain, 165-38, on Feb. 2. The game broke the state record for points in a game, according to Cal-Hi Sports, and margin of victory.
Central Section commissioner Jim Crichlow put the school on probation with the caveat that if the Ravens beat a team like that again they would be suspended from playoff consideration.
The way Fleming describes the game, he was ill and stayed on the bench the whole game, only doing so much as rotating players every four minutes as is his norm in the regular season.
Fleming was waiting for someone to ask for his go-ahead to start the running clock in the third quarter instead of the fourth, but it never happened, he said.
“When I was getting beat by 57 and 52 points a game, nobody held my hand and skipped through the tulips with me,” Fleming said. “All we did was go back and get better. … I can't beat good teams by 100 points. It's the systems of the poor that get beat by 100 points.”
Fleming is no stranger to losing, either. His squad was 6-19 in 2015-16 before completing a big turnaround to win the section title in 2016-17. This year, they did it again.
“Nobody really talks about that,” Fleming said. “They talk about how many points we scored. I didn’t throw no 6-(foot)-9 guys in my car and bring them to Cal City. I rode the horses that we had. We just stayed in the gym. We call it the lab. We stayed in the lab. We worked hard and we’re the results of hard work.”
California City 77, Corcoran 68
CCHS (26-6): Powell 11, Garcia 2, Johnson 20, Jarmon 24, M. Mays 18, J. Mays 2.
CHS (20-10): Condoll 8, Thompson 16, Salinas 23, Dawes 6, Estrada 9, Grigsby 3, Chavez 3.