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Driller girls overcome slow start, top Clovis North in section opener

With their closest regular season game being a 39-point win, trailing in the fourth quarter wasn't exactly familiar territory for the Bakersfield High School girls basketball team.

But for a battle-tested program seeking a fourth consecutive section championship, a first bout of adversity wasn't enough to derail the 2021 season.

Alexis Killebrew connected on a go-ahead 3-pointer midway through the fourth quarter, and BHS pulled away in what had been a back-and-forth game, topping Clovis North 64-54 in the first round of the Division I Girls Basketball Central Section Tournament on Thursday.

After trailing by as many as 11 in the first half, the Drillers closed the second quarter on a 10-4 run, then scored the first nine points of the third, giving themselves a 43-37 lead going into the final period.

That lead quickly vanished after the Broncos opened the fourth quarter on an 8-0 run.

The lead then changed hands on four consecutive possessions before Killebrew, who'd also giving BHS the lead on two free throws after a technical was called on Clovis North coach Rob Streeter, got an open look in the left corner and connected on a triple to put BHS ahead 50-48.

The Drillers would never trail again, icing the game away on a banked in 3-pointer by Shaelyn Turner and a contested layup by Erica Hayden on consecutive possessions.

As they've been known for during their current section run, the Drillers won with great balance. Killebrew and Anaya Sanders led the way with 12 points, but seven different Bakersfield players scored at least six points.

Sophomore Radisson Banks proved to be a major spark as well. Her steal and layup kick-started the 10-4 run to close the first half, and she then made a layup and assisted on a Killebrew basket to begin the early third-quarter run.

“Everybody on our team contributes," BHS coach Rashaan Shehee said. "When you go back and look at us in the past, we’ve had several players lead us in scoring in different games. It’s kind of hard to pinpoint who’s going to do what from a gameplanning standpoint.”

With such a decorated postseason roster, Shehee says it was easy to have confidence in his players even as the fell into a double-digit hole early.

“Our veteran players have been here before," he said. "They’re battle-tested so they know exactly what it takes.”

One of those battled-tested players wasn't exactly thrilled with the slow start. And with a road matchup against top-seed Buchanan awaiting, players expect a stronger start the next time out.

“We’ve got to come out faster," Killebrew said. "We’ve been coming out slow and we’ve been coming out slow too much and we get in our head. We’ve got to stay out our head.”

The Drillers will be at Clovis-Buchanan at 6 p.m., Tuesday.