Champs gear up for playoffs

Mohamed Bafakih, Contributing Editor

As the regular season comes to a close, the Western State Conference South Division basketball title is in the hands of the Bakersfield Renegades.
The second half of conference play has tested BC, however, in many ways, but as the state’s No. 17 team gears up for the playoffs, it’ll put them in better predicaments to finish out games.
The stretch of grind-it-out games began on Feb. 6, when the state’s second-leading scorer Michael Morrissey and L.A. Valley visited BC and looked to avoid a season sweep.
A see-saw battle throughout regulation, the Renegades went into the half down for the first time at home this season, 33-31.
Both teams continued to trade baskets in the second half, and down the stretch both teams made big shots which eventually sent the game into overtime.
In the overtime period, BC did what it does best at home and remained undefeated at the Gil Bishop Sports Center, beating the Monarchs 76-71.
Four players finished in double figures, led by Jameik Riviere’s 28 points, eight rebounds, six assists and four steals.
“We’re showing we can finish out games, which is important now and once we get to the playoffs,” head coach Rich Hughes said. The Renegades are 2-0 in overtime games played this season.
Following L.A. Valley, Glendale came into town on Feb. 10.
Glendale was the only team to knock off BC in conference play prior to Antelope Valley on Feb. 13.
“They’re a very well-coached team,” Hughes said in regard to Glendale.
Similar to the L.A. Valley game, the Vaqueros took a two-point lead at half as they led 31-29.
Things would open up for the Renegades in the second half however, and a little defensive zone slowed the Vaqueros down.
BC outscored Glendale 40-26 in the second half en route to its seventh straight win with a 69-57 win.
Sophomore Deandre Dickson led the way with 21 points and 10 rebounds while Riviere, after just four points in the first half, finished with 14 points.
“We only got three games left, so we got to play hard and win conference,” Riviere said.
The seven-game win streak snapped on Feb. 13 as the Renegades dropped a heartbreaker to Antelope Valley.
BC (21-5 overall, 10-2 WSC-South) held a lead by as many as 10 points in the first half, but the Marauders (21-6, 7-5) clawed back, desperately needing a win to keep their playoff hopes alive.
BC led at the break 35-29 and even controlled a 58-51 lead with just over five minutes left in the game, but the Marauders responded with a 14-4 run late in the game.
Down 68-66, BC’s Riviere hit a crucial game-tying bucket with 6.8 seconds remaining. BC’s defense wasn’t quick enough getting back – setting up the easy shot by AVC’s Gregory Wesley with 1.8 seconds left – and a devastating 70-68 loss for the Renegades.
Dickson finished with yet another double-double, 20 points and 14 rebounds, but was physically beat up as AVC tried to deny him any moment he touched the ball.
BC shot just 38.5 percent from the floor (25-for-65) and 3-of-16 from beyond the arc.
The Renegades close out the regular season at Santa Monica on Feb. 20 at 5 p.m.

[Photos By Mason J. Rockfellow and Joe Bergman]