BY JEFF EVANS Californian staff writer email@example.com
For the Independence and Tulare-Mission Oak boys basketball teams, history will be made Saturday afternoon.
Neither team has ever played for a Central Section boys basketball championship, but those two teams are matched up in the Division III title game at 4 p.m. in Fresno's Selland Arena.
Selland Arena, Fresno
Division II girls, 6 p.m.
No. 2 Garces (27-2) vs. No. 1 Ridgeview (25-3)
How they got here
Garces : Beat No. 7 Tulare Western, 60-41; beat No. 3 Redwood, 51-41
Ridgeview : Beat No. 9 Lemoore, 83-36; beat No. 5 Independence, 62-33
Section titles : Garces 1, Ridgeview 2
Division II boys, 8 p.m.
No. 5 Hanford West (18-12) vs. No. 2 Garces (20-8)
How they got here
Hanford West : Beat No. 4 East, 64-53; beat No. 8 Hanford, 71-47
Garces: Beat No. 7 Redwood, 77-55; beat No. 3 Lemoore, 65-49
Section titles : Hanford West 1, Garces 11
Other games today
Div. V girls : No. 2 Kings Christian (16-7) vs. No. 1 Immanuel (19-7), 2 p.m.
Div. V boys : No. 4 Laton (11-17) vs. No. 2 Tranquillity (11-13), 4 p.m.
Selland Arena, Fresno
Division III boys, 4 p.m.
No. 2 Mission Oak (27-3) vs. No. 1 Independence (31-1)
How they got here
Mission Oak : Beat No. 7 Roosevelt, 90-73; beat No. 3 Mt. Whitney, 67-46
Independence : Beat No. 8 Tehachapi, 80-38; Beat No. 5 South, 69-17
Section titles : None for both teams
Division I girls, 6 p.m.
No. 2 Clovis West (22-5) vs. No. 1 Stockdale (24-4)
How they got here
Clovis West : Beat No. 10 Buchanan, 61-23; beat No. 3 Hanford, 57-39
Stockdale : Beat No. 8 Monache, 84-41; beat No. 5 Edison, 62-48
Section titles : Clovis West 12, Stockdale 4
Other games Saturday
Div. I boys : No. 3 Clovis West (21-5) vs. No. 1 Bullard (26-2), 8 p.m.
Div. III girls : No. 2 Hanford West (26-6) vs. No. 1 Selma (30-1), 2 p.m.
Div. IV girls : No. 2 Mendota (22-3) vs. No. 1 Lindsay (23-6), 10 a.m.
Div. IV boys : No. 8 Coalinga (25-8) vs. No. 2 Exeter (22-6), noon
Other matchups feature teams with loads of postseason experience.
Tonight at 6 p.m., top-seeded Ridgeview (25-3) faces second-seeded Garces (27-2) for the girls Div. II title. Ridgeview, which features several seniors, is going for its third title in four years. Garces is trying to duplicate its 2008 Div. IV title trophy.
The Garces boys (20-8), seeded No. 2 in Div. II, have won 11 previous titles and will face fifth-seeded Hanford West (18-12) that won its only title in 2009.
In Saturday's other game involving a Kern County school, the top-seeded Stockdale Mustangs (24-4) are going after their fifth girls title in the Div. I final against second-seeded Clovis West (21-5), which has 12 championships. This is the fifth time the Mustangs and Golden Eagles have met for the Div. I title, with Clovis West winning 3-of-4 from 2007-10.
Selland Arena is hosting 10 title games, four today and six on Saturday.
Here is a look at the four games involving Kern County teams:
Division II girls
Garces (27-2) vs. Ridgeview (25-3), 6 tonight
The teams have met once this season, with Ridgeview winning 59-38 on Dec. 28 at the Stockdale tournament.
Ridgeview senior Erica McCall had a spectacular game that night: 32 points, 15 rebounds and 13 blocks. Garces then lost the next day to Div. I finalist Stockdale, 56-44, and has won 16 straight since. Ridgeview has won 13 straight.
The Stanford-bound McCall is one of seven Ridgeview seniors. Guard Alex Green and McCall are the only four-year starters, however.
"It's been a remarkable group," said fifth-year Ridgeview coach Michael Martin. "They've stayed together through tough times. And it didn't hurt having Erica."
According to Central Section statistician Bob Barnett, McCall holds the state record with 955 blocks and is first in the section and No. 3 all-time in the state with 1,915 rebounds.
McCall needs 13 points to move past North's Ana Onaindia to become the section's second-highest career scorer, behind West High graduate and former UCLA standout Nikki Blue.
Ridgeview has also benefitted with the addition this season of junior guard Candace Wilkerson, who had to sit out the 2011-12 season after transferring from Garces.
Wilkerson is second to McCall in scoring (11.4) and rebounding (5.3) and leads in steals (104) and assists (7 per game). McCall averages 18 points, 15 rebounds and 8.8 blocks.
Garces used only seven players most of the season but has added an eighth for the playoffs with a call-up from JVs.
Sisters Rachol West and Celeste West lead the way. Rachol, a senior headed to San Jose State, averages 20.9 points, 4.9 rebounds and 5.7 assists. Celeste, a 6-foot-2 freshman, averages 16.1 points and 16 rebounds.
"They have worked hard to come together," said seventh-year coach Tod Denison. "Obviously it helps having a 6-2 girl (Celeste) in there. Rachol's leadership has been big for us.
"But for the most part, every girl has stepped up at one time or another. I thought we'd go through more growing pains but they've been playing together since the start of last summer, almost a year together, and that's helped."
Ridgeview was the section champion in 2010 and 2011 but was upset by Independence last season.
"This could have been a four-peat," Martin said. "The whole team has worked hard to get here."
Division II boys
Garces (20-8) vs. Hanford West (18-12), 8 tonight
The Rams are led by junior guard Rashad Jackson, the team's top scorer (18.8) and rebounder (10.3) who also leads in steals (53). Other double-figure scorers are senior Tim Pena (13.8) and sophomore guard Sheldon Croney (12.8). Croney leads in assists (103).
Garces has an eight-game winning streak.
"This season has been about our guys maturing together," said coach Gino Lacava, who's in his 20th season while seeking his 10th section title and the school's 12th. "It's a young group of guys we've got out there and we matured a little bit late.
"But we think they've come together pretty darn well."
Lacava said the long-term success of the Rams has been about hard work.
"We actually do very few things in our basketball program. For a 10-year span, we didn't even have an inbounds play," Lacava said. "But the things we do, we practice hard. It's a recipe that has helped us out quite a bit. It's hard to argue with the success we've had."
Hanford West reached tonight's finals by routing cross-town rival Hanford 71-47 in Wednesday's semifinals. It was Hanford that KO'd top-seeded Fresno-Sunnyside out of the Div. II playoffs with a 66-63 quarterfinal win.
Division III boys
Independence (31-1) vs. Tulare-Mission Oak (27-3), 4 p.m. Saturday
This could be the best matchup of the 10 section title games. Independence's only loss was 61-54 in overtime to Bakersfield on Dec. 7 while Mission Oak's losses are to Div. I powers Central (103-84) and Edison (99-77) and to Div. II finalist Garces (90-88).
It should be a contrast in style. Independence is about full-court pressure and tight man-to-man defense. Mission Oak is more high scoring.
"We play hard and share the ball," said Independence coach Stan Davis. "They don't care who gets credit for the points. When you play like that, special things can happen. ... We're trying to raise the bar for each other."
Independence's players should be fresh. The Falcons routed South 69-17 in Wednesday's semifinals and pulled their starters early in the third quarter.
Junior guard Isaac Clark (13.4) leads the Falcons in scoring, followed by junior guard Derek Check (9.7) and freshman center Malcolm Johnson (9.0, 10 rebounds per game).
Defensively, the Falcons average 16.9 steals per game.
Mission Oak raced to a 34-18 halftime lead over Visalia-Mount Whitney in Wednesday's semifinals and coasted from there.
Division I girls
Stockdale (24-4) vs. Clovis West (22-5), 6 p.m. Saturday
These teams have dominated girls basketball in the Central Section. Stockdale has reached the semifinals 16 of the last 17 seasons, according to co-coach Charles Stewart, who added the Mustangs have been in the finals eight times in the nine years since Selland Arena became the championship site.
Coach Glenn Hager and Stewart have announced this is their last season as Stockdale's coaches.
"I always said when it got to be work, when you're sitting home and you say, 'Oh man, it's time for practice,' it's time to move on," Hager said.
The Mustangs have fought through adversity, Hager said.
"We went through two stretches where a lot of kids were sick, so there were games in league where we had five kids, six kids, seven kids that could play."
Beating strong Southern California teams like Valencia and Harvard-Westlake "helped give the kids confidence," Hager said.
Stewart said the Golden Eagles present a lot of challenges to Stockdale.
"They'll press the whole game," Stewart said. "They're nine kids deep and will run 3-4 different presses at us that will cause a lot of turnovers.
"How we handle their defensive pressure will determine if we can stay in the game with them."
Stockdale senior guard Jazmin Miller suffered a knee injury in the playoff win over Porterville-Monache, which is a concern given Clovis West's constant pressure defense.
The top scorers are seniors Nakia Page and Leigha Moland, who both average 15 points per game. Senior Dakota Oliver is a top inside defender and the team's top rebounder (6.9). Senior Asia Cooks and Moland also average six rebounds per game.