If the first two games weren’t enough for the teams and fans, two budding basketball rivalries in Kern County get a shot to possibly play in championship games at Selland Arena in two weeks.
The Central Section boys and girls basketball playoff brackets were released on Friday afternoon with the Bakersfield High girls seeded No. 1 in Division II and the Bakersfield Christian boys seeded No. 1 in the D-IV bracket.
Those are the only top seeds from Kern County.
On the girls side, Garces, which shared the Southwest Yosemite League title with BHS, is the No. 3 seed and on the opposite side of the bracket from the top-seeded Drillers.
Having the Rams on the opposite side allows for the two teams to possibly play on Feb. 22 at Selland Arena in the finals.
BHS beat Tulare-Mission Oak for the D-II title last season.
“We are happy and excited and to be at home with our crowd. They always have our back,” BHS coach Rashaan Shehee said about being at home in the quarterfinals and semifinals, if they advance.
Both teams received a first round bye on Tuesday and will open up playoff action on Thursday in the quarterfinals. BHS will host the winner of No. 9 Santa Maria-Pioneer Valley at No. 8 Liberty.
Garces will host the winner of No. 11 Tulare-Mission Oak vs. No. 6 Nipomo.
BHS, as the one-seed, will be at home in the semifinals with a win on Thursday. The Rams, if seeds hold, would have to travel 155 miles north to Oakhurst to take on No. 2 Yosemite.
“That would be exciting for the town to be able to play Garces again,” Shehee said “We look forward to that, but we both have to handle our business. I was shocked Garces didn’t get the 2-seed. That’s a tough place (at Oakhurst-Yosemite) to play. It can be a hostile environment.”
On the boys side in D-IV, No. 1 BCHS and No. 3 Foothill may not be league rivals like BHS and Garces, but have already played two very competitive and exciting games this season.
And like the two D-II girls programs, the Eagles and Trojans are seeking a rubber match at Selland.
BCHS beat Foothill 59-51 for the Lloyd Williams/Kern Schools Federal Credit Union Shootout title on Dec. 8 . The Trojans beat the Eagles 55-49 on Monday in a non-league matchup at home.
Visalia-Central Valley Christian is the No. 2 seed ahead of the Trojans because of the current criteria set by coaches in the section that plays overall win-loss record, coaches rankings and strength of schedule as the three tie-breakers before head-to-head games come into play.
“I think we got exactly what we worked for,” BCHS coach Kyle Shiloh said. “We have the path we wanted and now we have to perform.”
BCHS beat CVC 60-47 on Jan. 12.
The gym at Foothill on Monday was a standing room-only affair and makes Foothill coach Wes Davis excited about the hopeful possibility of playing the Eagles again in the finals.
“It’s exciting. When you think about what high school sports is in Kern County, we have a beautiful atmosphere,” Davis said. “If we get it, there should be a huge city crowd heading to Fresno for that. You saw the turnout on Monday.”
In D-I boys, Bakersfield, a team that went 10-0 in the Southwest Yosemite League and beat 2-seed Fresno-Bullard in December, is the highest local team in the field at No. 6.
With the current seeding criteria, these types of predicaments will come up annually.
“Basically this is the proposal asked for and approved. We cannot deviate from it,” Central Section assistant commissioner Jeff Cardoza said. “We don’t necessarily agree with it, but the coaches voted and agreed to this.”
Also in D-III boys, North is the No. 6 seed behind No. 5 Garces despite the Stars beating the Rams in non-league play on Jan. 3.
“With the criteria as they are, you can see how it happened,” North coach A.J. Shearon said. “Head-to-head doesn’t play in. Coaches across the section I’m sure ranked Garces higher than us, and we are fine with it and are excited to keep playing.”