A short three months ago in Kingsburg, Kerman played in the semi-final game of the 67th annual Kingsburg Lions tournament against Golden West, who happened to beat the football team two weeks prior, eliminating them from a chance at a valley ring. Kerman had a lead heading into the fourth, but Golden West caught up and managed to tie the game to force overtime. In a turn of events, both teams went from high scoring teams, to defensive teams, allowing only six points each, to force a second overtime. Then, Kerman stepped up, scoring in those last 4 minutes to not only beat Golden West 86-78, but to also end up winning the Kingsburg Tournament. After the game, I thought for sure that this was the best game of basketball I had, and probably will ever see. However, after the events that took place in Kerman on February 27th, I could not have been more wrong.
Kerman was a packed house Tuesday night, with anticipation that Kerman will make it to the Valley Championship for the first time in years. The only thing standing in their way? The young and hot Foothill Trojans. You can even before the game that Foothill didn’t want Tuesday to be their last game either, with freshman Jaden Phillips, Junior Cesar Valdez, and a staggering 6 foot 8 Edward Turner, all draining 3’s for a minute straight. They were an intimidating team, but you can tell that Kerman had no fear in their eyes. The Lion’s have faced faster and stronger teams from Divisions III and II all season, and knew that they could handle their own. As the game started it was a back and forth affair between both teams, until around the two minute mark when Foothill’ s Jaden Phillips started raining threes, allowing them to take a 15-22 lead over Kerman in the first. In the second half, it was almost the same story as Foothill kept hauling up threes, ending the second half with a 82% three point percentage. The reason why Kerman was still in the game? Kerman dominated Foothill in the paint, with Ezra Mendrin, Jacob Shubin, and Daniel Rico dominating the paint with offensive rebounds and second chance put backs keeping the margin close, making the game 33-45 at the end of the first half. Then the trend continued into the second half, Kerman scoring points inside and Foothill from behind the arc, as it seemed like Kerman’s season would, like the football team this season, end at the Semi-finals as they were down nine with only eight more minutes of basketball left. Then, like Golden West did to Kerman, Kerman switched gears. Kerman stepped up on defense, forcing turnovers and contested shots missing and getting rebounds, not to mention Kerman’s home court advantage in play, forcing countless mistakes for Foothill at the free throw line. Then Kerman not only kept position in the paint, but with help of both Seniors Hunter Macias and Daniel Rico, Kerman started racking up points, narrowing a double digit gap from 8, to 6, to 3, then finally tying up the score at 58 with more than 5 minutes left. Then with less than a minute left in regulation, Kerman took their first lead in the game since 3:00 in the first quarter. With Kerman up 67-66 with 16 seconds left, Edward Turner gets fouled and forced to the free throw line. Turner made his first free throw, but a loud crowd got into his head, as he would miss the game leading free throw. So with 9 seconds left, Daniel Rico rushed up the court to possibly win the game, but the shot was barely off, as now the score would even out, to force overtime for the second time this season for Kerman.
In overtime, Foothill tried to start the game off strong as Edward Phillips tried to posterize the Kerman team, but the dunk didn’t count as he was called for a charge. Kerman and Foothill were basically in a boxing match, both teams going back and forth. If Kerman hit a three, Foothill would respond with a three. If Foothill got a layup, Kerman would go inside with a layup of their own. Kerman would take a lead once again thanks to Daniel Rico coming in clutch with two free throws. It seemed like Kerman had it in the bag with 8.9 seconds left. Phillips had a rare mistake of missing a three, but as time expired, Turner once again bailed out Foothill with a disputed put back to force double overtime. Fans at this point were wondering when this game would end. Kerman heard their fans wish, and granted it. Kerman jumped out the second OT strong, with threes raining from the arc from Daniel Rico, who would end the game with 33 points and in the painted area as well. Even Macias, 5 foot 9, went in the paint against Edward Turner, who once again is almost a whole foot taller than him, still threw up a perfectly executed lay up. And even on the defensive end, Foothill couldn’t maintain their impressive three point percentage from the first half. Then when the Trojans tried to march their way into the paint, Ezra Mendrin stopped them in their tracks, blocking shots left and right, to finish the game with 19 points, 22 rebounds, and seven blocks. Kerman kept their foot on the gas pedal like they had been doing for the last third of the game. As the clock got closer to zero, you could feel the anticipation in the air, knowing that the clock was no longer how much time is left in the game, but it was rather a countdown to the announcement that Kerman High gets to play again in the Valley Championship game. As Foothill threw up one last ditched and pointless full court shot with 0.8 left on the clock, the buzzer struck like a gun at the Kentucky Derby. The student section rushing the court after witnessing a comeback that will long be remembered at Kerman High. When asking players about the game shortly after, many of them had something to say about not only the game they just had finished, but for Saturday’s game as well. Hunter Macias (19 points) when asked how his clutch three pointers as of late have been clutch to his team’s success says that, “Coach Hurt tells me to just shoot my shot.” Then Ezra, a man of few words, opened up to me about the events leading up to the comeback, he said that the team knew they could win, they just had to execute. And as for Saturday, he said they just have to play the way they did in the second half of the season. And finally when asking Daniel Rico on the atmosphere of the school and what he hopes for Saturday, he said, “Kerman has a great atmosphere, hopefully, they can all come this Saturday to the Selland Arena and cheer us on.”
Kerman has big momentum heading into Saturday, as they will now play number two seeded Bakersfield Christian at noon, in what would hopefully be the cherry on top of what is already an incredible season.