VISALIA — It all looked so normal for Sergio Rocha on Monday evening, controlling the floor and shooting well for Edison High against Fresno in the Eastbay MLK Showcase at College of the Sequoias.
The senior guard, in fact, was named the Tigers Player of the Game in a 63-46 win against a Warriors team that arrived 17-1.
He appeared to play without distraction; with supreme confidence, really: "I try; I like to think I am."
Even he can't say for sure, of course, not with his father, Ramiro Rocha, terminally ill with cancer back in Fresno.
"Through it all, oh my God, Serg is the greatest," Edison coach T.J. Wilkins said.
The father's health had the son and a 10-year-old sister move to Colorado with an older sister last year after Sergio Rocha had played in the Tigers program as a freshman and sophomore.
"So unselfish," Wilkins said. "Serg did it so his little sister could be in a better place, so she didn't have to witness all the stuff going on. It was sad when Serg left, and we didn't know if we would ever get him back."
The coach learned last spring Rocha would, in fact, return.
"Serg's the first one to the gym and the last one to leave, and he helps everybody — our janitors, me, everybody," Wilkins said. "He's awesome, and he's been that way his whole life."
Fortunately for Rocha, while carrying such an emotional burden, he doesn't have to lug the physical load for 14-4 Edison, which is deep in the backcourt with Keith Hayes, Braxton Hicks, Daemar Potts and Will Lee.
Virtually all of them — particularly Hayes — made life miserable while defending Fresno's Daryl Edwards.
The senior transfer from Houston did finish with 17 points — eight under his average — but had only six in the first three quarters when it mattered.
Rocha boarded the bus with a smile.
"I'm excited for my senior year," he said. "We haven't got to where we peaked; we're still waiting on that. But we looked good tonight and hope to get better."
Slater still to play? Possible
Colin Slater, coming off an All-State Freshman season as a point guard last year at Clovis North, has been prohibited from playing this year at Immanuel during a Central Section CIF investigation into the transfer.
But Eagles coach C.J. Haydock said there's still hope.
"Everybody's been cleared of any wrongdoing," he said before a heartbreak 69-68 loss to Mt. Whitney in an MLK Showcase game in which D-V Immanuel missed three point-blank shots in the final seconds.
"We're hoping for a (positive) final ruling this week, but there's no guarantee. We know we've done nothing wrong; we know our integrity's been upheld. There's a right thing to do and a wrong thing to do, and we have faith the CIF will do the right thing."
Slater, meanwhile, spurred his 12-3 teammates on while out of uniform on the bench.
"He's a great teammate, our biggest cheerleader," Haydock said. "And he's getting it done in the classroom. He's unflappable. Any other 15- and 16-year-old during all this stuff would let it get to you, right? But he's got more internal fortitude than all us adults involved in this. He's a victim, but he doesn't act like one."
Darrin Person, a freshman power forward and one of four Clovis Unified off-season transfers into the Immanuel basketball program, crushed D-III Mt. Whitney inside with a 38-point performance.
But, oddly, he didn't take one of the late attempts as the Pioneers (11-6) escaped behind 22 points from Ethan Moore. The senior guard didn't play the final minute because of leg cramps.
Other MLK Showcase highlights:
Clovis East 86, Mission Oak 69: Dylan Eamigh led four Timberwolves double-figure scorers with 23.
The Hawks are 9-8 overall, but 3-7 without Bee All-Star point guard Blake Shannon, who has missed a month with a sprained ankle. But his coaches say he will return this week.
Centennial 71, Roosevelt 57: Derek Check scored 19 points for the Southwest Yosemite League power. Brian King had 17 points and Kurtis McCoy and Bryson Williams 16 each for the Rough Riders.
East 57, Redwood 52: Fatai Eke, a major-college forward prospect, scored 17 points for the Blades. Riley Gerberick had 15 for the Rangers.
Liberty-Bakersfield 49, Laguna Creek-Elk Grove 37: The Patriots, who figure to contend with Centennial for the SWYL title, emphasized their signature defense.
Central Section basketball rankings
1. Central 12-3
2. Clovis West 11-5
3. Clovis East 15-5
4. Edison 14-4
5. Centennial 13-4
6. Liberty-Bakersfield 9-9
7. Bullard 6-8
8. Stockdale 12-3
9. Monache 8-5
10. Fresno 17-2
1. Hanford 14-2
2. Clovis West 13-3
3. Garces 17-3
4. Centennial 13-4
5. Edison 12-5
6. Clovis East 12-6
7. Clovis 7-7
8. Bullard 10-6
9. Sierra 12-4
10. Yosemite 9-6
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