High schools: Roosevelt boys clinch first 1st NYL basketball title in 35 years (video)

The Fresno BeeFebruary 20, 2014 

They packed the Fresno High gym Thursday night for the most meaningful boys basketball game between the Warriors and Roosevelt in 35 years.

When it was over, Rough Riders coach Aaron Pharr -- a 1988 graduate of the school -- raised his hands in triumph and sensational sophomore Bryson Williams strolled away in the early stages of a career that he's saying will be continued at Fresno State.

Bulldogs coach Rodney Terry and assistant Byron Jones were present among a crowd of 1,700 for Roosevelt's 72-60 North Yosemite League victory and the Riders' first conference title since 1979.

And it's obviously a good idea in the next two seasons for their presence to be consistent if they are, in fact, going to secure the services of Williams, who has given a non-binding pledge to Fresno State.

The 6-foot-6, 205-pounder's line in a regular-season finale that promises to have significant Central Section Division III seeding implications: 14 points, 17 rebounds, four blocks and three assists.

"We've been grinding since the summer and working hard for this moment right here," Williams said after Roosevelt closed the regular season with a 24-6 record and 9-1 mark in the NYL, including a sweep of Fresno (25-4, 8-2).

Now the question to be answered Saturday in section commissioner Jim Crichlow's office in Porterville: Did the Riders steal the D-III top seed in a division also featuring the Warriors; defending champion Independence of the largely D-I Southwest Yosemite League; Tehachapi of the Southeast Yosemite; and 2013 runner-up Mission Oak of the East Yosemite.

"For all the work we've done, I think we should be the No. 1 seed," said Pharr, in his third season at Roosevelt after assisting at Edison under former Tigers coach Arturo Ormond, who also attended Thursday's game. "To have it all come together in these last three years has just been amazing."

Not since the 1978-79 season have Roosevelt and Fresno won 20 or more games concurrently, according to section historian Bob Barnett.

And the Warriors -- ranked ninth in the section overall by The Bee and No. 1 in D-III -- were seeking their first league championship since 1980.

That seemed quite achievable, considering Fresno lost only 69-65 at Roosevelt two weeks ago in a game that Warriors senior Daryl Edwards and his 25-point scoring average missed per CIF rules after receiving two technicals in his previous game.

Sure enough, Edwards came through with 28 points this time with a powerful drive that was virtually unstoppable.

But Fresno could not match the overall strength of the Riders, the bigger, stronger and far deeper team.

They also received 19 points, eight rebounds and three assists from junior guard Keunte Howard, 18 points from senior guard Darrian Epperson and nine points, 12 rebounds and seven assists from senior wing Kurtis McCoy.

"All year long we've been good offensively," said Pharr, whose team was eliminated 90-73 by Mission Oak in last year's quarterfinals. "I just knew if we got the guys to just believe in getting some stops and playing defense, our offense would carry us."

The reporter can be reached at aboogaard@fresnobee.com or @beepreps on Twitter.

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