There was a full supply of excuses as to why the Bakersfield Christian boys basketball team lost its season opener on Monday night.
For starters, the Eagles are playing without a handful of players, including star center Ben Yurosek, who are still entrenched in the football season. Bakersfield Christian is hosting Fullerton-Sunny Hills on Saturday in a Southern California Regional bowl game.
But first-year BCHS coach Garrett Brown was having none of it.
“First off, no excuses for not having all of our guys,” said Brown, following his team’s 73-64 loss to Reedley-Immanuel, whose mascot is also the Eagles. “I felt like we were prepared, I felt like we were ready, but we didn’t play very hard until we absolutely needed to and that’s a reflection on me.
“So I told the guys that I’m going to take this loss. It’s on me. If your team doesn’t play very hard, it’s a reflection on the head coach. And we didn’t play very hard.”
BCHS made a late push, erasing most of a 16-point, fourth-quarter deficit to make it interesting.
Junior Lendl Henderson, who finished with a team-high 21 points, had eight points during a four-minute stretch and pulled Bakersfield Christian to within 70-64 with a driving layup with 52 seconds to play. He had two three-point plays, senior point guard Seth Morantos added seven points, and freshman Charlie Stump scored two inside baskets during the run as BCHS outscored Immanuel 19-9.
But Immanuel’s Shaun Rodgers made 3 of 4 free throws in the final 41 seconds to help his team hold on. Immanuel has won six straight Central Section championships, including the last three in Division III. They will compete in Division II this season.
Rodgers and teammate Winston Williams were a thorn in BCHS’s side all night, combining for 51 points. Williams finished with a game-high 26 points and 16 rebounds, while Rodgers added 25 points.
The two did most of their damage during a big third quarter when Immanuel erased a 2-point halftime deficit. The two combined to score their team’s first 17 points after halftime and closed the quarter with a 12-0 run to lead 54-41.
“Our defense has to be a lot better,” Brown said. “That’s on me. The last two years (as an assistant to Kyle Shiloh) all I had to do was coach the defense, and so that was my thing and that was all I was focusing on.
“Well now that Kyle’s gone, I have to focus on the whole in general. And I’ve been putting a lot of emphasis on our offense, because that’s what we’ve struggled with the last few years is making shots. So we’ve been doing a lot of shooting. We’ve been shooting better, but I haven’t been concentrating much on defense. So that’s on me again. But we’re going to get better.”
Bakersfield Christian struggled offensively, as well, and were just 5 of 32 from 3-point range. Despite an off shooting night himself, Marantos contributed in plenty of other ways, finishing with 16 points, 14 rebounds and seven assists. Stump added eight points and seven rebounds in his high school debut, and Levi Lafu had eight points in limited action due to foul trouble.
“We missed a lot of shots we normally make, we missed a lot of layups, missed a lot of free throws,” Brown said. “But I have the utmost confidence in these guys that that’s not going to last forever.”