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.
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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.”