BY ZACH EWING Californian staff writer email@example.com
Boys basketball spectator tip: When Garces and Frontier are scheduled to play, get yourself to the gym.
On Thursday night, that gym was at North High and the game didn't disappoint, a 72-69 Frontier victory in overtime that featured 11 lead changes in the fourth quarter and overtime.
"Every single game we play comes down to the wire like that," said Frontier coach Jeremy Stevens, whose team scored the game's final seven points. "(Garces coach Gino Lacava) and I always kind of smile at each other before the game, like, 'Who's going to win by 1 tonight?' It's fun to play in close games and win, but it's also fun to compete against a solid team like that."
The win moves Frontier into the semifinals of the Lloyd Williams Kern Schools Federal Credit Union Tournament. The Titans will play Liberty tonight at 8, after Independence plays Bakersfield in the first semifinal at 6:30.
The other three quarterfinals were lopsided in favor of Southwest Yosemite League teams. Independence pulled away from East to win 59-45; Bakersfield used a 17-0 second-quarter run to down Highland, 51-34; and Liberty routed Tehachapi, 78-32.
In between, Garces (2-1) and Frontier (3-0) played a thriller that wasn't decided until Tim Pena, who scored 33 points, missed a 3 for the Rams with two seconds left in overtime. Pena scored all six of Garces' points in overtime, and the Rams led 69-65 with 1:30 left. But Corey Torczon put back a Frontier miss to tie the game, the Titans then stole the inbounds pass, and Alec Killebrew's ensuing layup gave them their first lead since the opening minutes of overtime.
"It was just hustle," said Jaz Thind, who scored 24 to lead Frontier. "The whole team was hustling. We press, press, press; that's what we do, and when we get tired, we just bring in other guys."
Garces played without sophomore star Sheldon Croney, who has practiced just one day since the Rams' football season ended. Lacava said he'll play next week.
Rashad Jackson scored 21 for Garces, but he missed a 3 for the lead with 9.9 seconds left, and Frontier freshman Jordan Slaton made one of two free throws to make it a 3-point game.
"That's a big free throw for a freshman to make," Stevens said. "But the big thing was, when we needed stops, we got stops. That's what you ask for from your guys. I'm sure our shooting percentage wasn't good, but it was just effort."
Garces plays Tehachapi in a fifth-place semifinal at 5 p.m today, with East and Highland tipping off at 3:30 in the other fifth-place semifinal. The consolation semifinals at Beardsley Junior High will feature Centennial vs. Ridgeview at 6:30 and West vs. Golden Valley at 8.
In the last quarterfinal, Liberty hit three early 3-pointers and then showed off its athleticism, getting a couple of thunderous dunks in a second-quarter run that put the Patriots ahead 37-20 at halftime.
"Tehachapi guarded really well in their zone against Golden Valley (in the first round)," Patriots coach A.J. Shearon said. "But we shot it so well early that we got them out of it. We've been struggling to shoot so far, but we have guys who can do it. To see some shots go in was really good for our psyche."
Jacob Martin scored 20 for the Patriots, who lost 70-49 to Fresno-Central on Tuesday in the first of what will be five games in five days.
"When we put the schedule together, we figured we'd only be about .500 heading into league play," Shearon said. "But it will be pay dividends in our growth and development as a team."
Independence trailed East 28-25 at halftime but won the third quarter 18-6 to win its first game of the tournament behind 13 points each from Derek Check and Isaac Clark. The Falcons didn't play in Wednesday's first round because Mira Monte was a late scratch from the tournament. B.J. Shelton scored 16 Bakersfield in its quarterfinal win over Highland.