Preps

Wednesday, Feb 20 2013 11:21 PM

Gathering momentum

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    By Felix Adamo / The Californian

    Anthony Wright of BHS is sandwiched between Keith Mitchell (32) and Keonta Vernon of Tulare Union as Wright goes in for a lay up.

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  2. 2 of 4

    By Felix Adamo / The Californian

    Bakersfield's Anthony Wright battles Tulare Union's Oscar Reyes, left, and Romello Harris for possession at the Driller gym.

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    By Felix Adamo / The Californian

    Driller Steven Contreras comes down with a rebound and is fouled by Tulare Union's Keonta Vernon in the process. Oscar Reyes is at back right.

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  4. 4 of 4

    By Felix Adamo / The Californian

    Driller guard Stephon Newsome dives in front of the Tulare Union bench while going for a loose ball in the first quarter.

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BY ZACH EWING Californian staff writer zewing@bakersfield.com

At this point, it doesn't matter that Bakersfield High's boys basketball team had a bad first five minutes against Tulare Union on Wednesday night. Nor does it matter that the Drillers had a poor January.

All that matters is that BHS won its first-round home playoff game, 66-43 over the Redskins, and that the No. 7 seeded Drillers will have a shot at No. 2 Fresno-Central on the road at 7 p.m. Friday in the Division I Central Section quarterfinals.

"They're a good team, but we're going to be ready," senior guard Stephon Newsome said. "We'll go over our video and come out ready. We'll never be intimidated. The first step to winning is mental."

Bakersfield (18-11) nearly forgot that first step Wednesday, coughing up 10 turnovers -- many of them unforced -- in the first six minutes. Fortunately for the Drillers, No. 10 seed Tulare Union (20-7) was nearly as sloppy and led only 6-2 at the end of that stretch.

Bakersfield reeled off six straight to take the lead at the end of the quarter and then outscored the Redskins 10-3 to open the second quarter.

"The team just came together, and we were like, 'Let's go,'" Newsome said. "Coach (Greg) Burt preaches about turnovers, so we knew we had to come together."

Bakersfield dominated from that point behind 15 points and eight assists from Newsome; 15 points from B.J. Shelton, including an emphatic two-handed dunk that punctuated the victory late; and 12 from Stephen Contreras.

"Stephon is the guy for us," Burt said. "He's the penetrator, and he's added that 3-point (shooting) ability. He just has an ability to find the open man. I don't know how many layups he got Stephen Contreras, but he makes people better."

Wyoming-bound senior Keonta Vernon led Tulare Union with 19 points and 15 rebounds despite a sore ankle he sprained in a regular-season game last week.

Vernon said after the game he estimated he was at about 70 percent, but Burt said he was a handful anyway.

"He looked pretty good to me," Burt said. "He's a proven player, big, strong athletic. I'd say Wyoming is getting a pretty good player."

But after Vernon scored nine of Tulare Union's first 13 points, he didn't hit another field goal until the final five minutes. No other Redskins player scored more than six points.

The Drillers now head to Central flying high with confidence -- they've won five of six, with the loss to 29-1 Independence and overtime victories over Liberty and Stockdale, teams that also notched first-round victories Wednesday.

"We had some early-on success, and I think our guys started believing the hype," Burt said. "We lost sight of who we are, but we're getting that back, and you're seeing the results."

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