The most compelling story in Central Section boys basketball is the might of Division II.
As in mightier than D-I.
And Memorial is part of this.
The D-II Panthers of four-year coach Brad Roznovsky are 22-4 overall and 8-0 in the County/Metro Athletic Conference while going 4-0 in the league against Edison and Bullard, who have combined for the past five section D-I titles.
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They clinched no worse than a tie for the CMAC championship Tuesday night before a near-capacity crowd at Bullard while scoring the final four points of the game in the last minute behind Lunden Taylor – one of the state’s top sophomores – in a 55-52 win.
They’ve also beaten D-I opposition from the section’s pre-eminent league (Tri-River Athletic Conference), Clovis and Buchanan.
And consider Buchanan – under Roznovsky’s predecessor at Memorial, Pat Geil – has raised D-I red flags in the past eight days by conquering, consecutively, Central, Clovis East and Clovis West in the TRAC.
2 Memorial’s game lead over Bullard with two remaining in County/Metro Athletic Conference boys basketball
Memorial leads Bullard (12-15, 6-2) by two games with two regular season games remaining.
The Panthers can clinch the league title outright at home Thursday night against Madera South. Memorial won 59-55 on the Stallions’ floor in the league’s first round.
The Panthers will then close the CMAC next week Tuesday at Sanger.
The section’s playoff seedings will follow Feb. 20 at commissioner Jim Crichlow’s office in Porterville. And it will be there that Memorial will be judged against a deep D-II, featuring Ridgeview (23-1) of the South Yosemite League and Lemoore (21-2) of the West Yosemite League.
Proof: Ridgeview coasted 80-59 at Central, which is leading the TRAC. And Lemoore has beaten Buchanan, Clovis East, Clovis North and Clovis of the TRAC in addition to Memorial.
Our strength of schedule is very good. I’d be very disappointed if we got anything worse than a three seed. Possibly the best two teams (Ridgeview and Lemoore) in the section are in our division, and we look forward to it.
Memorial boys basketball coach Brad Roznovsky
“Our strength of schedule is very good,” Roznovsky says. “I’d be very disappointed if we got anything worse than a three seed. Possibly the best two teams (Ridgeview and Lemoore) in the section are in our division.
“I’ll tell you what, we’ve got guys 5-foot-10 to 6-foot-1, (but) we’ll go to battle with anybody and we look forward to it. These guys are unbelievable.”
There’s more to the Memorial chapter, and not all particularly delightful.
After winning 37 games in two seasons from 2012-13, the Panthers went 16-33 the past two.
This year’s unit – small and without a player remotely disguised as a center – falls frightfully short in matching up physically with Ridgeview and Lemoore, to name but two powers in D-II in addition to Fresno, Mission Oak, two-year reigning champion Hanford, Hanford West and Independence.
Ridgeview and Lemoore, sandwiched around D-IV Immanuel (19-5), are Nos. 1 and 3 in the Fresno Bee overall section rankings.
Memorial has climbed to No. 6. And who knows?
There’s Taylor, the guard who scored eight of his 20 points against Bullard in the fourth quarter, including two crafted, left-handed drives for the right-hander.
“He’s a special player,” Roznovsky says. “He wasn’t at his best (against Bullard), but everything we ran late was to him. He’s got some unbelievable skills.”
There’s Pardeep Gill, the in-command, left-handed senior point guard transfer from Bullard; blossoming freshman Milton Burnett; and role-playing seniors Mikey Ball and Derek Junior.
It was a Ball-drawn offensive charge and a Junior offensive rebound in the final minute that proved critical against Bullard.
Roznovsky, in a rally that followed an 80-70 home-court win in overtime over the Knights three weeks previous: “Last year was tough. We came out in the fall and really, really worked to get better defensively, and we’ve made strides. (Tuesday night) I will tell those kids how they worked in September and October paid dividends.”
Central Section basketball rankings
Records through Feb. 9
BOYS TOP 20
- 1. Ridgeview (SYL, 22-1)
- 2. Immanuel (CSL, 19-5)
- 3. Lemoore (WYL, 21-2)
- 4. Central (TRAC, 19-4)
- 5. Clovis North (TRAC, 16-8)
- 6. Memorial (CMAC, 22-4)
- 7. Buchanan (TRAC, 13-13)
- 8. Clovis East (TRAC, 18-8)
- 9. Centennial (SWYL, 15-11)
- 10. Clovis West (TRAC, 15-8)
- 11. Roosevelt (NYL, 20-7)
- 12. Fresno (NYL, 23-4)
- 13. Mission Oak (EYL, 18-6)
- 14. Hanford (WYL, 16-7)
- 15. Hanford West (WYL, 19-8
- 16. Edison (CMAC, 14-13)
- 17. Bakersfield (SWYL, 14-9)
- 18. Liberty-Bakersfield (SWYL, 15-9)
- 19. Independence (SYL, 16-6)
- 20. Golden West (WYL, 23-2)
- Division I: 1. Central; 2. Clovis North; 3. Buchanan
- Division II: 1. Ridgeview; 2. Lemoore; 3. Memorial
- Division III: 1. Roosevelt; 2. West (SYL, 18-8); 3. Selma (CSL, 20-6)
- Division IV: 1. Immanuel; 2. Granite Hills (E. Sequoia, 23-2); 3. Rosamond (HDL, 18-3)
- Division V: 1. Kern Valley (HDL, 15-2); 2. Caruthers (W. Sequoia, 15-8). 3. Tranquillity (W. Sierra, 17-8)
GIRLS TOP 20
- 1. Clovis West (TRAC, 23-3)
- 2. Edison (CMAC, 22-3)
- 3. Garces (SWYL, 13-8)
- 4. Central (TRAC, 18-6)
- 5. Redwood (WYL, 20-4)
- 6. Hanford (WYL, 19-6)
- 7. Mission Oak (EYL, 20-6)
- 8. Clovis (TRAC, 17-9)
- 9. Centennial (SWYL, 12-11)
- 10. Orosi (E. Sierra, 22-4)
- 11. Independence (SYL, 17-6)
- 12. Ridgeview (SYL, 21-5)
- 13. Clovis North (TRAC, 10-11)
- 14. Buchanan (TRAC, 15-10)
- 15. Lemoore (WYL, 14-8)
- 16. Kingsburg (CSL, 20-6)
- 17. Immanuel (CSL, 15-7)
- 18. Golden West (WYL, 15-6)
- 19. Tulare Western (EYL, 18-7)
- 20. Madera (CMAC, 15-10)
- Division I: 1. Clovis West; 2. Edison; 3. Garces
- Division II: 1. Redwood; 2. Independence; 3. Lemoore
- Division III: 1. Mission Oak; 2. Golden West; 3. Exeter (CSL, 19-7)
- Division IV: 1. Orosi; 2. Kingsburg; 3. Immanuel
- Division V: 1. Memorial (CMAC, 14-6); 2. Caruthers (W. Sequoia, 15-7); 3. Minarets (W. Sequoia 14-5) ✔