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Drillers fall in D-I girls basketball title game

Garces BHS girls basketball

Bakersfield High girls basketball coach Rashaan Shehee directs action during a 2019 game. 

Bakersfield High’s three-year reign as Central Section girls basketball champion came to an end Thursday afternoon when the Drillers ran out of gas in the second half in Santa Maria.

No. 2-seed Righetti took control of a close game midway through the third quarter and pulled away for a 55-38 victory over No. 4 BHS in the Division I title game at Pioneer Valley High.

“It was close throughout the game,” Bakersfield coach Rashaan Shehee said. “We came out in the third and Alexis put us up with a 3, but that was pretty much it. I don’t know, we just didn’t come out to play. We didn’t defend and they came to play.”

The Drillers (8-1) were seeking their fourth straight section title after winning the Division II title in 2018 and 2019 and then capturing the D-I crown last season. It was the sixth straight appearance in a section title game, the fifth straight in Shehee’s five years at the helm.

Both teams are expected to be invited to participate in the Southern California Regionals, which starts next week. The pairings will be announced Sunday.

Trailing 22-21 at the half, Bakersfield took the lead on a 3-pointer by junior Alexis Killebrew, one of three she had in the game to account for her nine points.

But the Warriors (14-2) began to take control on the strength of seniors Malia Cabigon and Alex Paquet. The 6-foot Cabigon had 11 of her game-high 21 points in the third quarter and Paquet added eight of her 16 points during the period as Righetti opened up a 45-34 lead.

“I hate to say it this way, but it was more us than them,” said Shehee, who is 105-18 in five years as BHS coach. “They did what they were supposed to, but we didn’t defend, at all, the way that we normally do for some reason. I don’t know why.”

Paityn Persson added 10 points, eight in the second half, for the Warriors who did most of their damage inside while making just three 3-pointers.

The Drillers made six 3-pointers, including three in the third quarter, but were unable to keep pace with Righetti. BHS senior Anaya Sanders had seven of her nine points in the first quarter to help her team stay close early.

“It’s been a tough one,” said Shehee of the season, which opened with his team in quarantine for two weeks following a positive COVID-19 test. “I’m still very proud of the way the girls fought and battled throughout the whole season because we didn’t have the same time to prepare for the season the way we normally do. So I’m happy with the way they fought through it and continued to battle from beginning to end, and staying positive.”