Even in a typical summer league tournament featuring multiple teammates with the same jersey number — or no number at all and where complete rosters are a luxury — David Whatley stood out among his peers.

Bakersfield High’s 6-foot-4 senior showcased his skills in Saturday’s Summer Breeze boys basketball tournament at RiverLakes Ranch Community Center.

Whatley helped rally the Drillers from a 12-point deficit in the semifinals, with a dominant combination of scoring, rebounding and defense in a 53-48 victory over Cesar Chavez. Bakersfield beat Liberty 35-14 in the title game. Whatley was named tournament MVP.

“He’s the clean up man for us,” said longtime BHS assistant coach Stan Thompson. “I’ve been coaching a long time and I don’t think I’ve ever seen a better rebounder.”

Trailing 40-29 late in the third quarter, Bakersfield scored 16 straight points and pulled ahead 44-40 on a putback by Whatley with 3:30 to play.

“We just had to slow down and play our game,” Whatley said. “I just tried to stay smooth and to not foul. When the ball went up I just try to grab it and put it back in.”

Sounds simple. But the Drillers trailed 28-22 at the half and 40-34 at the end of three quarters thanks to a strong effort by the Titans’ Adan Arredondo, Fernando Carranza, Noly Mercado and Alfonso Hernandez.

Chavez hit several 3-pointers to stay close, even as Bakersfield appeared geared to pull away late.

It all started on defense for the Drillers at the end of the third quarter. Whatley started the winning run with a basket off a long pass, then Ryan McGee scored on an acrobatic drive to the hoop. David Revecho took a charge and Kosta Bikakis made a short jumper off a spin move to close out the quarter.

A Revecho steal, a Whatley block, rebound and basket off an assist by Revecho pulled BHS to with 40-38 with 5:30 to play. Another Whatley rebound and a Revecho drive gave the Drillers the lead for good.

Earlier in the tournament, the Drillers shook off a slow start to beat Mira Monte 53-24 and then cruised past North High in the quarterfinals.

Success in the tournament should be no surprise for the Drillers, the two-time defending Summer Breeze champions, who return nine players from last year’s Southwest Yosemite League championship team.

“It’s the summer, and we’re still trying to find what our rotation is going to be,” BHS coach Greg Burt said. “We’re really looking at our 8-9 and 10 spots, and who can be adequate backups at our point guard positions. Who are the guys that can fill those roles for us.”

Bakersfield led 23-16 at the half against Mira Monte, but pulled away in a hurry by creating several turnovers off its press. The Drillers outscored the Lions 19-0 in the third quarter, with Alex Martinez, Bikakis, Josh Geary and Revecho making key baskets during the run.

“When you get a good team going like that you kinda try to weather the storm,” said Mira Monte JV coach Trey Dunham, who was filling in for varsity coach Miguel Valera. “I called a timeout to try to slow things down, but it’s really hard to slow a team down when it’s rolling like that.”

In other games, Liberty defeated Taft 39-19 and Ridgeview 43-25 to reach the final. Chavez defeated Centennial 46-28 to reach the semifinals.

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