Kiara Frink has been part of pressure-packed situations before.
And as a three-year starter for Bakersfield High, Frink knows what it takes to win crucial games.
The senior guard hit all six of her free throws in the final two minutes of Tuesday night's game against Garces, as the Drillers beat Rams, 57-50. The Southwest Yosemite League showdown at Garces was a matchup of two of the best Division II girls basketball teams in the Central Section.
“That’s huge. She’s one of the seniors on the team and our team is all about the seniors,” BHS third-year coach Rashaan Shehee said. “It’s her job to step up and she did that.”
Frink scored six of her team-high 15 points down the stretch from the line. The first two extended the Drillers' lead to 51-46.
BHS had built a 17-point advantage in the third quarter before Garces cut the lead to two early in the fourth.
“It was tough, but I know I have to make free throws to put the game in the bag,” Frink said. “Free throws are free points, so I thought I should drive (to the rim) as much as I can because I know I can make the free throws.”
BHS (14-2, 2-0 SWYL) has played for the D-II title the previous two seasons, beating Tulare-Mission Oak last year for the championship.
Gone is Taylor Caldwell, now starting at Grand Canyon University, but the Drillers brought back three of their four top scorers from last season. Frink and fellow senior McKenna Hsiung — who also hit two free throws in the final minute of the game — are leading the way this season for BHS along with junior Taylor Linzie.
The three combined to score 35 points for the Drillers while Linzie scored 12. Freshman Erica Hayden added 10 for BHS.
The Drillers went on a 9-0 run to end the first half with a 25-17 advantage.
They then scored the first seven points in the second half, including a 3-pointer by Frink to extend the lead to 15.
Garces went on a run, however, scoring the final nine points of the third. The Rams cut the deficit to 41-39 early in the fourth when standout Lexus Green dished off to Aliyah Johnson for a bucket.
Johnson scored all 13 of her points in the second half for Garces (14-3, 1-1).
“We needed to lock down on defense,” Frink said. “We had slip ups and we needed to get out of the mindset that it’s just Lexus’ team. Because it was bigger than that.”
Said Shehee: “I knew they were going to start fighting back and they would go on a run. It was up to us to persevere and hold them back and our seniors stepped up.”
The two teams play again Jan. 24 at BHS. With the way both are playing this season, there's a strong chance they could square off for a third time deep in the next month's playoffs.
“It’s great for the town as well,” Shehee said. “We had a lot of support out here in this hyped environment. I am more proud of that than anything else.”
Added Frink: “I think that we took the victory home and we showed everyone that we won Valley (last season) and we are the champs. This is our house. This is our town.”