Poor shooting has been almost chronic in the 11-year history of the Central Section basketball finals at Selland Arena.
Many factors have been cited, notably, unusual depth perception without walls directly behind the backboards, large crowds and pressure.
So Porterville’s boys blew up that history Saturday with the most unforgiving, determined and high percentage of formulas — the layup.
The Panthers repeatedly beat West downcourt on fastbreaks, scored 22 of their 34 field goals on layups, shot 55.7% and blasted the top-seeded Vikings 89-72 for their first boys section title in 90 years.
“It wasn’t me,” Porterville junior guard Justin Duran said after scoring 31 points on 14-of-26 shooting. “They just kept finding me and I put it in the cup.”
He was only 1 of 8 in 3-pointers, but no matter because he was routinely drilled with long-distance passes for layups against a 22-10 West team from the South Yosemite League that never adjusted.
“We knew they liked to take chances defensively, we wanted to make them pay in transition,” said 15-year Porterville coach Lance Wallace.
His Panthers were here in 2005, the first year the two-day, 10-game finals for boys and girls arrived at Selland. They lost 60-55 to Washington in D-III.
Then Saturday they scored the second-most points among 108 prep finals at Selland to that point. Only Garces’ boys — 91-78 over Liberty-Bakersfield in 2009 — have scored more in a high school game played with mere 8-minute quarters.
Elijah Moreno had seven of the 24 assists for second-seeded Porterville, which will advance to Wednesday’s Southern California Regionals.
West will also go, in addition to possibly two other section D-III boys teams. Brackets will be announced Sunday.
The Panthers most assuredly will not have the size to match up with typically imposing SoCal competition. They generally play with a five-guard lineup, averaging about 5-10 in height.
But they’ll march into the regionals coming off “our best all-around game of the year,” according to Moreno. “Our game plan is to play defense and push. We knew it would be an uptempo game and thought it would play to our advance. And it sure did.”
Moreno, a junior, scored 15 points in 21 minutes. Angel Flores, a senior who played on an unbeaten freshman team in 2012, added 13 points on 6-of-7 shooting in only 16 minutes.
Porterville also outrebounded West 41-25, led by Duran’s nine.
In all, Wallace had nine players go between 10 and 26 minutes.
“If teams want to press,” Wallace said, “we like to push in transition because we’re athletic enough, and we’re definitely deep.”
West, which placed second in the SWY to Ridgeview at 6-4, received 18 points from Isaiah Matthews.
The Vikings shot respectably — 44.8% on 26 of 58 attempts.
But the tone was set with a blistering 68.8% Panthers shooting clip in the first quarter (11 of 16). Duran opened 5 of 6, and away the orange-clad team went while winning the program’s second section title.
The only other was 1925, and that season also resulted in a state championship, according to section historian Bob Barnett.