For all the success of the Central Section basketball championships in a fan-pleasing six-year run at Selland Arena, there's been one missing part -- no Kern County representation in boys Division I.
And while two months of play remain before the finals return to Selland, the prospects of that pattern continuing appear slim after Bakersfield High marched into Buchanan's gym Tuesday night and rocked the Bears 74-61.
Just another nonleague game? No way.
This result promises to be one of the first the section seeding committee judges in D-I if things play out as expected and the Drillers (14-2) go on to win the Southwest Yosemite League while Buchanan (10-5) -- the 2010 D-I runner-up -- presses for another title in the Tri-River Athletic Conference.
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"They made a statement," Bears coach Eric Swain said. "They had something to prove and, for whatever reason, they wanted it a little more than we did."
In a matchup of the section's premier guards -- and juniors, no less -- Buchanan's Alex Fertig had a 29-26 scoring edge over Bakersfield's Tyrone Wallace, who already has received six major-college offers.
But the Drillers, running virtually a five-guard offense that's common among the section's best teams this season, also received 14 points apiece from Arik Smith and Derrick Brown.
Further, if there was a loose ball, the quicker, hungrier Drillers usually got it while storming back from a 15-8 deficit midway through the first quarter.
"Our kids battled back, took control and kept control," Bakersfield coach Greg Burt said.
The Drillers first won a section title in 1938 under coach Goldie Griffith. And they last won one in 2003 under Justin Hutson.
They also made a big statement last season when Wallace powered the sixth seeds to a 91-88 D-I quarterfinal upset at No. 3 Central. They then lost 73-68 in the semis at No. 2 Clovis East, which followed that with a 71-52 conquest of No. 1 Buchanan at Selland.
Only the finals are played in downtown Fresno, meaning seed-driven homecourt advantage is a factor through the semis.
And Bakersfield is sitting pretty in a season that also has counted a 76-65 win over Clovis of the TRAC on Saturday.
And the Drillers will be heavily favored over yet another TRAC team this Saturday when they play suspension-depleted Central at 7 p.m. in the Super Saturday Showdown at Hanford West.
"Most definitely this is going to help us [for seeding]," Burt said of the win over the Bears. "That's a great team we beat tonight.
"It's just a preseason game, but it did have some importance."