TAFT - Dylan Self wants to leave a lasting legacy as a boys basketball player at Taft, and he has a pretty good idea just how to do that.
The Wildcats have won three league championship in program history with the last one coming in 1990.
Self and the rest of his teammates knew a loss at home on Thursday against Chavez would squash those dreams.
Self led the way with a game-high 25 points as Taft beat Chavez 69-62. Self slammed down a dunk as time expired and the Taft student section stormed the court.
The win keeps Taft in contention for at least a share of the South Sequoia League title after Chavez had the chance to seal the title outright with a win.
“This was everything. We haven’t won a league championship in 29 years and that’s what I want most,” Self said. “To see my senior year on that banner. It was 1990, the last time. I want it this year. I want it bad.”
It almost slipped away.
Taft had a 19-point fourth quarter lead slip to a 65-55 advantage when Self committed his fourth personal foul with four minutes left.
Taft (15-7, 8-2) head coach Eric Newton promptly pulled Self out of the game, the first time the senior left the court.
The Wildcats offense sputtered without Self on the court and the Titans (17-9, 9-2) capitalized with a 15-2 run to cut the lead to 65-62.
During the Chavez run, Newton put Self back in to try and slow down the high-octane offense for the Titans.
“When he comes in, we have a lot of young athletes, and so he has the commanding presence and our young athletes feed off that,” Newton said. “So when when we started making errors, I knew I had to get him back in regardless of the four fouls and he proved again tonight why he has been such a vital part of what we are trying to do.”
Self is averaging 20 points a game for the Wildcats this season. Newton calls Self “Kobe-like” in terms of his want and desire to have the ball in his hands during critical points in the game.
“The first half I know he wasn’t getting quite the looks he wanted,” Newton said. “But when he did take his looks, he took them in rhythm. That’s the only thing I’ve ever asked of him. He just has this thing and I can’t really explain it. I’ve never coached a player quite like him where he wants it and he feeds off it. He finished it off tonight.”
Chavez, led by 17-point performances by Adan Arredondo and Fernando Carranza, can secure a share of the SSL title with a win against Kennedy at home in the regular season finale.
Taft still has two games left next week before playoffs begin at home against Wasco and at Arvin.
“We’ve had this roller coaster in league this season,” Newton said. “We laid an egg against Shafter a couple of a weeks ago. It was deflating and we weren’t playing good basketball. So we’ve been emphasizing the fundamentals … They’ve put it together and we’ve got a shot at the league title, but we have to finish it off.”
Sophomore Connor Mcafee added 14 points for the Wildcats and junior Tyler Terrell added 12.