Kyle Shiloh has seen a maturation in Kadar Waller since the senior stepped foot on the Bakersfield Christian campus last summer.
Waller spent the previous three years as a standout guard at Liberty, but transferred to BCHS for his final high school season.
Getting Waller to grow on and off the court has been a focus for Shiloh. In turn, the goal is to get Waller to the next level as a basketball player.
A big step was taken in the fourth quarter Wednesday, as Waller scored nine of his 13 points in the final five minutes as the Eagles beat Bakersfield High 45-39 in the first round of the four-day Lloyd Williams KSFCU Shootout at North High.
“I am so proud of this dude for that reason exactly,” Shiloh said. “I think in the past, he could have folded mentally and his body language would have been horrible. That’s one of the main things I’ve been talking about to him since he got here. Elite players will always play bad, but fight through the adversity. So I am glad that he did that.”
Waller didn't hit a field goal until draining a 3-pointer during a 15-2 run to end the game. The Drillers led 37-30 before sophomore Seth Marantos hit a bank-shot 3-pointer to begin the BCHS rally.
“It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish,” Waller said. “I had a bad first half. The coaches told me to keep my head up. They know what I am capable of to finish this game and get the win.”
Neither team seemed to find a rhythm offensively during the first three quarters.
“It happens. No one expects it. We had a bad shooting game,” Waller said. “At the end of the day, we had to finish strong.”
The Eagles advanced to the Central Section Division IV championship game last season as a defensive-minded team with lockdown guards like Marantos and Noah Taylor. They also had a strong inside presence from Ben Yurosek and Lendl Henderson.
Shiloh is confident that the Eagles have the defensive part of the game locked down. Now, he wants his team to explode offensively.
“That was us last year,” Shiloh said. “This year we want to be known more as an offensive team. We are not worried about us getting stops because that’s what we preach. But we want to put shots in the basket and have high scoring games and use our individual skill to our advantage.”
There is little worry in Shiloh early on knowing Yurosek has been with the team less than two weeks since the football season ended.
“We haven’t jelled yet as a team and you can tell,” Shiloh said. “We just got Ben. He’s been with us only barely a week. We are light on our bench. We need to work on that some more. But mentally we did OK. It more more about getting the ball to go through the basket.”
And getting a comeback win against — a team like BHS that played for the section D-I title two years ago and was in the semifinals last season — is key.
“It’s a big win. We just have to feed off of it and keep on doing what we do,” Waller said.
Jimmy Henry led the Drillers with nine points and Sam Ackerman added eight in defeat.
BCHS plays Independence at 3:30 p.m. on Thursday during pool play, while the Drillers will face Stockdale at 8.
Bakersfield Christian 45, Bakersfield 39
BHS: Henry 8, Geary 9, Reaves 5, Ackerman 7, Bikakis 4, Whatley 2, Olivas 3.
BCHS: Henderson 16, Yurosek 9, Waller 13, Taylor 2, Latu 2, Marantos 3.