Despite the stage — another all-Fresno Unified showdown for the Central Section’s Division I boys basketball title before 6,000 fans at Selland Arena on Saturday night — it was somewhat of a sleeper.
But, suddenly, Edison awoke in the fourth quarter against Bullard and did what a state standard-bearer does — responding with excellence and electricity when it really matters.
Will Lee’s 3-pointer, a Jamont Wilson dunk off a Lee assist, a Malcolm Raines putback after his block of Knights star Austin Armstead on the other end and a Lee layup after a Wilson block. And, just like that, the Tigers were in control 46-36, their shoulder-to-shoulder student body in a roar in the south end zone, and away they raced to a 54-46 victory.
It was Edison’s second straight section title and 23rd overall, topping the 22 by Southern Section giant Mater Dei-Santa Ana and Central Section's Washington for the state record, according to section historian Bob Barnett.
And, with all respect to Lemoore’s program in the West Yosemite League, this is precisely why Tigers fifth-year coach T.J. Wilkins made the move from Kings County.
“Well, yes, absolutely,” he said. “If you’re going to coach high school basketball, this is where you want to be. I mean, this is awesome for Edison’s community. The program has such a great tradition and our guys are happy to add to the legacy.”
Wilson, an emerging 6-foot-7 senior post, delivered 14 points and 17 rebounds, Ruben Parks had 11 points — including six straight free throws in the final 41 seconds — and Lee and Daemar Potts had 10 points apiece for the second-seeded Tigers, who followed up on the school’s section football championship.
They’ll take their 22-8 record into a Southern California Regional on Wednesday, likely at home, though there’s no guarantee. Bullard will also go, most certainly on the road. Seedings will be announced today.
The 19-10 Knights, in their fifth-consecutive D-I final appearance at Selland, were in it until the final 3 minutes despite 25.9% shooting (14 of 54) against an Edison zone defense.
“Ah man, it was a heartbreaker in the end,” said Bullard senior guard Marquis Macumba, who led the team with 15 points.
In the end, the Knights — consecutive D-I champions from 2011-13 — would be dominated by Wilson, who found his game this year.
He played but 9 minutes, scoring two points without a rebound, in Edison’s 58-41 rout of the Knight’s in last year’s D-I championship.
Bullard made two field goals — TWO — while plunging into a 22-12 hole with 1 minute remaining in the first half.
Then an uncontested Macumba jumper injected some life into the Knights. Jovance Webster followed with a fastbreak layup, hacking Edison’s lead to 22-16 at the break.
It wasn’t a particularly pleasing half for fans who paid $12 (adults) and $9 (students). Then, again, those were all-day passes, so maybe some were fortunate enough to have watched Porterville’s show a few hours earlier in an 89-72 flurry over West for the boys D-III title.
Bullard (4 of 21) and Edison (7 of 25) combined for 26% shooting in the half. That included the Knights’ 0-for-5 shutout in 3s and the Tigers’ 2 of 7.
And to think it all began with Macumba’s layup after his own steal for a Bullard 2-0 lead in the opening seconds. Seth Stanley followed with a drive for the Knights, but they wouldn’t make another field goal until Macumba’s jumper with 1:00 left in the half.
Meanwhile, Wilson carried Edison with eight points and nine rebounds.
“It’s what I want to do,” he said. “It’s what I’ve done all year.”