This was about beating the odds, the unfriendly percentages of defeating a good team three times in one season.
Further, this was about beating a team loaded with athletes who not only played on a championship basketball team at the same venue a year ago, but several of whom also contributed largely to a title-winning football team in the fall.
Mission Oak High couldn’t do it because Hanford wouldn’t allow it.
And it wasn’t really that close at Selland Arena on Friday night: Bullpups 64-49 over the 29-1 and top-seeded Hawks for the Central Section Division II boys basketball championship before a crowd of around 3,500.
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“I really felt from the bottom of my heart we had it from the opening tip,” said Ryan Johnson, a sophomore wing who delivered 19 points, five rebounds, three assists and two steals for Hanford (26-4).
It was Johnson who quarterbacked the Bullpups to a 12-1 and D-III championship football team and, as a freshman a year ago, scored 15 points in only 14 minutes in a 70-55 rout of Monache at Selland in the D-II final.
Six other players who saw this court a year ago also contributed against Mission Oak, the state’s ninth-ranked D-II team (Cal-Hi Sports) that had beaten Hanford 64-58 and 60-57 in December.
They included Demetrius Curry (14 points, seven rebounds), Cole Taber (eight points, nine rebounds), Devin Lourenco (eight points) and Trent Reynolds (eight points, five rebounds, three steals).
But that returning cast began with JuWuane Hughes.
“Best true point guard I’ve ever coached,” Hanford’s Brad Felder said.
Ringing words given the Bullpups’ 20-year coach had Cougar Williams at Hanford and Demetrius Porter before that at Washington.
Hughes had seven assists, five rebounds, three steals and, most of all, a calming presence on a Selland stage known to swallow the best of stars.
In addition to Johnson, Hughes, Taber and Curry starred on the football team.
And not to question the carry-over.
“Oh, there’s always a carry-over factor,” Felder said. “It carried over from last year’s basketball team to football and then again from football to us. Those kids came in used to winning, expecting to win and they drive each other to winning.”
Both Hanford and Mission Oak will play Southern California Regional games Wednesday. Selections and sites will be made Sunday.
There’s no guarantee, nor is it even likely, that the Central Section’s 10 champions will host regional openers, section assistant commissioner Jeff Cardoza said.
Mission Oak’s Austin Molezzo, a 6-4 junior forward, scored 24 points, including four 3-pointers without a miss in a 4-minute run that gave the Hawks a 23-19 lead early in the second quarter.
But the Bullpups closed the first half with an 11-1 run for a 30-24 lead.
Johnson — younger brother of Bee 2014 girls co-Player of the Year Brooke Johnson — made a 3-pointer and fastbreak layup to spark the surge, and it was closed in the final seconds on a 3 and rebound bucket by Curry.