It was midway through the football season when Memorial High coach Anthony Goston placed the ball in Jordan Stallworth's hands and said, "Lead us."
Two months after doing just that, guiding the Panthers into the Central Section Division II championship, Stallworth was given the ball again Wednesday night – this time by coach Pat Geil – with his basketball team down by a point in the final seconds against third-ranked Bullard.
"Coach just told me if the trap comes get it and go," Stallworth said.
And oh how the junior guard went, driving 35 feet, taking on a tremendous Bullard defender, Carl Goodman, and banking in a layup with 13 seconds to go, giving Memorial a 55-54 County/Metro Athletic Conference victory.
Jorray Hammond then missed a baseline drive in traffic with 2 seconds remaining – failing to draw a foul that had Knights coaches howling – and the Panthers completed a deep pass to close it out before a capacity crowd of 1,500 in the Memorial gym.
The outcome, which could have a huge impact on Saturday's seedings for the section playoffs, came in a game that had Bullard leading 38-22 with 3:40 to go in the third quarter. But that's when coach Tony Amundsen benched the Knights' top two players, Goodman and Anthony White, for the rest of the quarter with three fouls apiece. Memorial seized the momentum and never let it go.
Bullard arrived with a 16-game winning streak, featuring convincing nonleague conquests of No. 6 Clovis East and No. 10 Clovis of the Tri-River Athletic Conference, and a 55-50 home-court victory over Memorial in the CMAC's first round.
"I think this locks the No. 3 seed," said Geil, expecting some combination of Clovis North and Tulare to occupy the top two seeds in Division II.
The Panthers, D-II runners-up last season, are 16-8 overall and tied for second with Edison with 7-2 records in the CMAC entering a regular-season final Friday on the Tigers' court.
Bullard (22-6, 8-1) will be expected to win the league title outright with a win at home Friday against Madera. But now in question is a D-I No. 2 seed, which had seemed firmly in place after once top-ranked Bakersfield lost two straight. TRAC champion Clovis West is positioned well for the top seed.
Still, the Knights have leverage with a probable outright league title – as opposed to a probable co-title by the Drillers with Liberty. And Bullard beat Stockdale, which split with Bakersfield.
"If you go by the criteria laid in front of [the seeding committee]," Amundsen said, "we should get the higher seed."