The Kern County girls basketball season at the Central Section level may very well come down to two league rivals battling for a banner at Selland Arena.
Bakersfield High, the defending Division II champion, and Garces — now in D-II after three years in D-I — are two of the top teams in Kern County and at the section level.
Those programs lead a list of locals gearing up for a big five-week stretch before the playoffs begin Feb. 13.
Here, we preview the 2019 girls basketball league season featuring area programs:
Southwest Yosemite League
The front runners: This is a two-team race between Bakersfield High and Garces. The Drillers are coming off a Central Section Division II title in 2017-18 and Garces is now in D-II, meaning these two games could possibly determine which team gets the No. 1 seed in the playoffs.
The darkhorse: It might be tough for any of the other four teams in the SWYL to compete with the talent on BHS or Garces, but Frontier (8-8) has been solid in non-league play.
The MVP favorite: Lexus Green, senior, Garces. A quick look at any box score shows the Garces guard can score (she's averaging 20 points per game). But the fun really starts with her ability to handle the ball.
The starting five (top-five players outside the MVP): Aliyah Johnson, junior, Garces; McKenna Hsiung, senior, BHS; Taylor Linzie, junior, BHS; Riley Dougherty, senior, Centennial; Addisyn McMurtrey, sophomore, Garces.
Big matchups on the horizon: BHS at Garces, Tuesday; Centennial at Frontier, Jan. 17; BHS at Liberty, Jan. 17.
South Yosemite League
The front runners: Under first-year head coach Brittany Smith, Bakersfield Christian (10-3) appears to be the top team in the SYL after going 9-3 and finishing second in the South Sequoia League last season.
The dark horse: Tehachapi (13-4) is off to its best start since the Warriors advanced to the D-III semifinals in 2012-13.
The MVP favorite: Lanie Jackson, senior, BCHS. She led the league in scoring during the first half of the season with 16.8 points per game.
The starting five: Tiffany Amos, senior, Golden Valley; Teagan Thurman, junior, Tehachapi; Dami Sule, sophomore, BCHS; Ray Vaughn, junior, West; Jordan Francisco, sophomore, Ridgeview.
Big matchups on the horizon: Tehachapi at BCHS, Wednesday; Golden Valley at Tehachapi, Friday; Independence at Ridgeview, Jan. 18.
Southeast Yosemite League
The front runners: Highland has been game-tested in non-league play and improved in the first month with a solid run at the Arvin Holiday Showcase.
The darkhorse: Moving over from the SYL, East has pieces in place to contend.
The MVP favorite: Kanyah Patterson, junior, East. The guard has been a scoring machine for the Blades this season. Already has two 30-plus point performances.
The starting five: Jackie Mejorado, senior, East; Jada Hurd, sophomore, Foothill; Ayleen Rodriguez, junior, North; Samantha Perez, junior, Mira Monte; Neveah Linton, junior, Highland.
Big matchups on the horizon: Mira Monte at Highland, Tuesday; East at North, Friday; East at Highland, Jan. 18.
South Sequoia League
The front runners: Winning the gold division title at Arvin and beginning league play undefeated at 4-0 has put McFarland out front thus far.
The darkhorse: Chavez already beat Shafter in the first part of league play. The Titans are 3-1 with their lone loss coming to McFarland.
The MVP favorite: Neli Diaz, senior McFarland. The senior leads the league in scoring at 15.5 per game and is the floor general for the Cougars.
The starting five: Kathy Rodriguez, senior, McFarland; Reagn Hamilton, junior, Taft; Julie Hernandez, senior, McFarland; Emily Flores, junior, Arvin; Felicia Chacon, senior, Shafter.
Big matchups on the horizon: Chavez at Taft, Tuesday; McFarland at Chavez, Jan. 22.