REEDLEY -- They'll stuff three charter buses at Immanuel High this afternoon, roll down south and thunder for their Eagles in a Southern California Regional Division V semifinal against Sierra Canyon-Chatsworth.
"It's easy to rally a community around a small school," Immanuel superintendent Ryan Wood says.
Particularly during a magical postseason.
Not only did Immanuel capture the first Central Section girls basketball title in school history two weeks ago, the regional's 11th-seeded team has since delivered upsets over No. 6 Flintridge Prep-Canada (53-46) and No. 3 View Park-Los Angeles (45-41).
Nearly 200 Eagles fans were present in Los Angeles on Saturday for the conquest of View Park. That support group, counting students and adults, could swell to 300 for their most difficult assignment yet -- second-seeded Sierra Canyon (21-9) of the Southern Section at 7 p.m.
And put the numbers into perspective: That's 300 for a Mennonite Church-sponsored school of 206.
Suddenly, confidence has soared for an Immanuel girls program that has always chased the boys.
Evidence can be seen on the blue and white section championship banners for all sports hanging in the Eagles' gym: 14 titles, ranging from 1957 to 2008, are listed for boys basketball; zero for girls hoops.
That will be updated, given their 58-32 D-V championship victory over Kings Christian on March 1 at Selland Arena.
"I told the girls, 'If you're happy with Valley, thank you, but we're going for state now,' " says coach James Stevens, a 2000 Immanuel graduate who returned to the school after coaching Parlier's girls the past three years.
Olivia Sorensen, a three-year varsity center, couldn't have imagined this four months ago: "Honestly, I can definitely say this was not expected, to come this far. We've come a long way in our skill level, execution, mentally -- everything."
A turning point, Sorensen says, actually came in defeat at home -- 61-57 in the Central Sierra League to a Selma team that would go 30-3 and place second in the section's D-III. The score was tied with 30 seconds remaining.
"It was a big learning game," she says, "even though we didn't win."
Pivotal to the 22-7 team's growth has been freshman point guard Zoe March.
Slight and but 5-feet-4 -- maybe -- it was her 21 points on 9-of-13 shooting that powered the rout of Kings Christian, and the 15-year-old hasn't blinked in the regionals, as well.
Her five free throws in the final two minutes secured the win over Flintridge Prep and her 19 points rallied the team against View Park.
To those familiar with her athletic background in the community, no real shock.
"She's an amazing athlete," Wood says. "She could score who knows how many goals in soccer; she will be the catcher in softball; she's good in volleyball. And she could swim. We're not talking about a run-of-the-mill player."
She's humble, too.
"I'm definitely feeling the pressure," March says with a smile and a mouthful of braces. "And, I'm not going to lie, I'm really nervous (entering tonight's game). But I know when something goes wrong, my teammates will lift me up and tell me what I need to hear."
The Immanuel-Sierra Canyon (21-9) winner will advance to Saturday's regional final at 10 a.m. at Ontario's Colony High against the winner of tonight's other semifinal matching No. 1 Horizon Christian-San Diego (24-7) and No. 5 Mesa Grande Academy-Calimesa (29-3).
Next for Knights?
Bullard boys basketball coach Tony Amundsen knows what they're going to say -- if they're not already saying it: "Wow, they lost 10 seniors; they're not going to be very good."
And to that, he says: "I feel quite the opposite."
Returning from a 27-3 team that won a third-straight section D-I title will be backup guards Austin Armstead and Quinn Rystad and, above all, 6-4 forward Calvin Young II -- a progressive inside force who averaged four blocks a game. He's the son of former McLane and Reedley College star wide receiver Calvin Young, and the nephew of former Edison product, USC All-American and 13-year NFL tight end Charle Young.
In addition, Knights help will arrive from a 25-3 junior varsity team, featuring 6-2 Demari Hill, a gifted junior.