Fear. Uncertainty. Sadness. Disappointment. It seems we’re surrounded by these feelings and emotions as we all try to make sense of the world we live in today.
What started as more of a warning, “Be sure to wash your hands more frequently” or “Make sure you cover your cough or sneeze” has mushroomed into a titlewave of uncertainty as we navigate through a sea of canceled events, closures of schools and restaurants, and now the state’s “stay at home” order.
And it all seemed to happen overnight.
Everything has changed in the past 10 days, and sports has been no different. The NBA got the ball rolling with its decision to suspend its season after Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert tested positive for the coronavirus.
Soon after, other sports organizations followed suit, all the while the list of athletes and celebrities diagnosed continues to grow.
In the past, many of us turned to sports as a distraction during troubled times. Now we can’t even do that. There’s no NCAA Tournament. No NBA, NHL or MLS. The Major League Baseball season has been pushed back.
Some may argue that sports shouldn’t matter during a time like this, especially when we don’t know what the next weeks, months and even years might have in store for us. In the bigger picture, they’re right.
Believe me, I can relate. My wife and I are in our early 50s (actually my wife stopped aging at 29, as our kids can attest), and both of us have some preexisting health issues. So the personal fear for me and the one's I love is real, too.
Selfishly, I just want to turn on the TV and scan the guide to find what is typically an endless list of games, from college basketball, spring training baseball or whatever. At this point I'd watch about anything.
To prove that point, I actually found myself watching a marble race — from start to finish — that somebody posted on Facebook. I didn't really understand the rules, but what really mattered was the bright blue marble made a late pass and pulled away for the win, if you're interested.
It's just another example of why, for people like me, watching sports is so important. It has a way of uniting people in a way that few other things can.
I wrote a column about that topic just last week. After watching the outpouring of love and support for the East High girls and Bakersfield Christian boys basketball teams as they made their runs to the CIF State championship games. The noise level in the gymnasiums was deafening.
Unfortunately, as we all know now, the finals — scheduled for last weekend in Sacramento’s Golden 1 Center — were canceled, taking away what is likely a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for those players and coaches.
Now we’re finding out that the spring sports seasons have been suspended. We can all understand the decision. It’s been well documented that the key to stopping the coronavirus pandemic is limiting contact with others that may be infected. But man, wouldn’t that have been a nice boost for all of us to celebrate a state championship? The culmination of a magical season for both teams.
But after considering that thought for a moment, I started thinking maybe I’ve been looking at this all wrong? At least from a local perspective. Maybe focusing on the disappointment of not being able to play isn’t what’s important. Maybe we should be celebrating the Blades and Eagles for what they accomplished, not what they didn’t get a chance to.
With that on my mind, I started looking back on the past several months and came up with an overview of some of the highlights this season. I hope it will tide you over until we can add some new prep sports memories in the coming weeks:
East (23-9) catches fire in the playoffs, winning the Central Section Division V title and then goes 4-0 in the SoCal regionals to win the D-V championship. Blades senior point guard Kanyah Patterson scores 25 points in the regional final victory over San Diego-Madison.
Other solid seasons:
Bakersfield (30-3) follows up its fourth straight SWYL title with a third consecutive section championship, winning in D-1 after two in a row in D-2.
Arvin (28-6) wins the South Sequoia League title and finishes as runner-up in Central Section Division 3.
Tehachapi (18-3) won its second straight SYL title.
Mira Monte (16-13) captures its second straight SEYL title.
Frontier (22-7) finished second to BHS in SWYL, advanced to section D-3 semifinals.
Centennial (14-15) nearly tripled its win total (5) from the previous season.
Bakersfield Christian (27-6) captured its third straight league title, cruised to the Central Section Division 3 championship and then won four games in the Southern California Regional playoffs en route to the D-IV crown. The Eagles, led by first-year coach Garrett Brown, shook off an 0-3 start and won 24 of their last 26 games.
Other strong seasons:
Independence (19-8) won the Central Section Division 2 championship.
Delano (23-12) finishes runner-up in section D-4, advanced to SoCal Regional D-IV semifinals.
Bakersfield (23-8) captured its fourth straight SWYL title.
Chavez (23-7) posted its second consecutive South Sequoia League championship.
North (18-11) won its second straight Southeast Yosemite League title.
Centennial (18-5-3) won eight straight matches to capture the Central Section Division 2 championship with a dramatic 1-0 victory over Tulare Union. Lost to La Habra, 2-1, in the opening round of the SoCal Regionals.
Other strong seasons:
Frazier Mountain (17-3-1) and Rosamond (18-5-1) share the High Desert League title. Falcons lost to Arvin in the section Division 6 final.
Arvin (17-5-3) captured the Central Section D-6 championship, lost in the opening round of the SoCal Regional D-V playoffs.
Liberty (12-5-2) won a highly-competitive SWYL title, advanced to the section Division 1 semifinals
East (26-4-2) finished second in the SEYL to Highland and was section D-4 runner-up
Highland (15-6-2) won its sixth straight league championship before being upset in the opening round of section D-2 playoffs
Stockdale (12-7-2) finished second to Liberty in the SWYL, then upset No. 4 Fresno-Central in opening round of section D-1 playoffs.
Ridgeview (14-6-2) won the SYL title before being upset in the opening round of the Central Section Division 3 playoffs.
Garces (25-3) won its second straight section title and fell one win shy of back-to-back SoCal Regional titles, losing in penalty kicks to Corona-Santiago. The Rams played most of its season without last year’s BVarsity Player of the Year Ebubechukwu Ekpemogu.
Foothill (24-1-2) won the Central Section Division 3 title, following up the D-4 championship from the year before. The Trojans lost in penalty kicks to Pasadena-Marshall in the opening round of the SoCal regionals. The Eagles were later disqualified for using two illegal players and had to forfeit the victory. But Foothill’s request to replay the semifinal match was denied by the CIF office, and the title was awarded to Bellflower.
Other strong seasons:
Shafter (15-2-2) won the SSL title and finished as runner-up in section D-4 to Garces.
Highland (20-6-1) finished second to Foothill in the SEYL and section D-3.
East (11-12-1) reached the Central Section Division 3 semifinals, lost to Foothill
Chavez (17-8-2) finished second in the SSL, lost to Garces in section D4 semifinals.
Frontier junior Alyssa Valdivia dominated her competition all season, winning her first 38 matches before finishing as runner-up at 106 pounds at the State Championships. She finished third as a freshman at 116 pounds, and became just the third Kern County wrestler to reach the state finals.
Other strong seasons:
Golden Valley’s Aliana Lefotu finished fifth at the state tournament at 137 pounds.
Ridgeview’s Maliya Castillo finished fifth at 170 pounds at the state tournament
Bakersfield High’s Orianna Morales finished eighth at the state tournament at 143 pounds.
Talk about leaving the best for last. Bakersfield High’s Josiah Hill became the first Driller heavyweight to win a state title when he pinned No. 2-ranked Nicholas Villarreal at Mechanics Bank Arena on the final day of February. So much has changed since then, but you can’t take away the thrill of Hill’s victory.
Other strong seasons:
Garces freshman Tye Monteiro became the first Rams' wrestler to place in the state tournament. He finished eighth at 152 pounds after losing his first match on Thursday, pinning five straight opponents during the grind of the consolation round.
Bakersfield High senior Jarad Priest placed sixth in the state meet at 170 pounds.
Bakersfield High junior Justin Darter placed sixth in the state meet at 220 pounds.
That’s just a taste of what the winter high school sports season had to offer. I’m sorry if I left somebody out. Its just a testament to how many outstanding achievements there were.
And this is just a taste of what's to come. We'll be celebrating more local high school prowess when we unveil our BVarsity All-Area teams is a few weeks. Until then, let's all try to stay positive and stay safe.