Since last season ended, the talk has been on whether Bakersfield Christian and Foothill could eventually meet in the Central Section Division IV boys basketball championships in February.
Basketball fans waiting for that game get an early season preview on Saturday night in the Lloyd Williams/Kern Schools Federal Credit Union Shootout championship game at 7:30 p.m.
Both teams went 3-0 during pool play over the first three days of the tournament and will square off for the tournament title.
Bakersfield Christian beat Stockdale 76-56 on Friday behind a 26-point performance by Kadar Waller and Foothill got another solid performance by sophomore Jaden Phillips, as the Trojans held off North 63-55 to advance to the finals.
The addition of Waller only made the Eagles more explosive on offense and defense. Add in senior 3-point shooting specialist Noah Taylor and junior Ben Yurosek, who is just now getting into basketball shape after leading the football team to the D-III championships, and the Eagles are rounding into form early on.
These aren’t your normal D-IV teams.
Both have size, with Yurosek and Henderson standing at 6-foot-5. On the opposite bench, Foothill has a lineup that could have four players towering over the competition with Edward Turner at 6-9, Warren Stingley at 6-5, and Elijah Seals and Phillips both at 6-4.
It’s been an impressive showing for both programs this week.
BCHS held off Bakersfield High on Wednesday and Foothill beat Liberty that night in overtime — big wins over D-I opponents for both teams.
And as the first three days of the tournament went on, both teams seemingly got better.
BCHS’ shooting, which is paramount, improved drastically. Taylor hit four from long range on Friday as Waller hit two 3s.
Foothill came from behind on Wednesday to beat Liberty, as Turner scored nine points in overtime.
On Friday, Phillips scored 13 of his 23 in the fourth quarter, including eight during a 12-0 run as Foothill took the lead on a 3-pointer from the sophomore. Phillips hit three of his four 3s against North in the fourth quarter.
There is also the intrigue of the established and the unknown between the two.
BCHS advanced to the D-IV finals last season and most expected this team to contend, or even be the favorite, to get back to Selland Arena for the finals.
Foothill lost in the semifinals last season as Phillips came on late after moving to town from Oakland in January.
The loss of Malik Tautau to graduation hurts, but getting Seals and Stingley eligible on Thursday only makes the Trojans that much more intriguing.
Turner, Seals and Phillips all have D-I offers.
Henderson will get there. Yurosek will be a tight end or defensive end in the PAC-12 in two years and Waller plays like a next-level player.
In a year where both teams are in D-IV, the level of play is indicative of D-I, and there is nothing wrong with that.