The Central Section boys basketball semifinals are set to tip off Tuesday.
Here's a look at our local matchups, along with the potential outcomes:
No. 3 Bakersfield (21-7, 9-1 SWYL) at No. 2 Fresno-Bullard (21-7, 7-3 CMAC), 7 p.m.
How they got here: Bakersfield won the Southwest Yosemite League title, going 9-1 and splitting two league games with rival Liberty. The Drillers then beat Clovis (76-62) and Fresno-Edison (61-53) in the first two rounds of the section tournament. Bullard finished tied for second in County Metro Athletic Conference (CMAC) with Edison, then beat Clovis North (70-61) in the section quarterfinals.
The history: There is plenty to look back on. Most recent was the Drillers beating the Knights in the D-I semifinals last season in Bakersfield, before Bullard beat BHS 67-64 this season (Dec. 16).
The advantage: This one goes to Bullard simply because of homecourt advantage. That goes a long way in the section semifinals, particularly when considering the travel, the crowd and, well, the knowledge of the local referees. On a neutral court it would be a toss up, as these two teams are very evenly matched.
No. 3 Madera South (17-12, 2-8 CMAC) No. 2 Bakersfield Christian (24-6, 12-0 SSL), 6:30 p.m.
How they got there: The Eagles cruised through the South Sequoia League slate and opened the playoffs beating Hanford-Sierra Pacific (84-53) and McFarland (66-48). The Stallions played in the ultra-competitive CMAC that has four teams in the semifinals (Bullard in D-I, Fresno-San Joaquin Memorial in D-II, and Sanger in D-III). Madera South beat Caruthers (68-42) and Bishop (69-50) in the early rounds.
The advantage: The Eagles defense is stifling and the youthful roster (only one senior in Jacob Oliver) is growing by the day. Sophomore Ben Yurosek scored 40 in the opening round over Sierra Pacific. Give it to BCHS, which is poised for its first trip to Selland Arena since beating Kingsburg for the D-IV title in 2009.
No. 4 Foothill (22-9, 8-0 SEYL, at No. 1 Kerman (27-3, 10-0 NSL), 7 p.m.
How they got there: Foothill is having a turnaround season. Just five years removed from a winless campaign, the Trojans are on the verge of their first section championship appearance since winning the D-II title in 2000. Kerman has won 13 consecutive games and, led by junior Jacob Shubin, is playing at a high level offensively. The Lions beat Coalinga (80-42) and Visalia-Central Valley Christian (60-50) in the opening rounds.
The advantage: The Trojans starting five has been lights out over the last month. The unit is led by national recruit Edward “Squid” Turner, seniors Malik Tautau, Alex Hernandez and Cesar Valdez, and freshman Jaden Phillips. A road game to Kerman will be no easy task — the community will come out to support its only school in town. But the Trojans have the talent to overcome such an obstacle.
No. 4 Tollhouse-Sierra (17-11, 5-5 NSL) at No. 1 California City (24-6, 9-1 HDL), 7 p.m.
How they got there: California City plays at a rate unseen by most programs in the state. The Ravens have scored 100-plus points 10 times this season, including a state-record 165 against Frazier Mountain earlier this month that resulted in probation being handed down by the section commissioner. Cal City beat Baker (104-57) and Highland (87-75) to advance. As for Sierra, the Chieftains are led by freshman standout Tommy Newton. They beat Fresno Christian (74-54) and Madera Ranchos-Liberty (80-70) to advance.
The advantage: If the 428-mile round trip from Tollhouse to California City isn’t enough, then Sierra has to find a way to slow down the Ravens offense that takes little time taking shots (46 per game) and has four players averaging in double-figures, led by senior Hubert Johnson (19.3 PPG).