REEDLEY — They came from North Hollywood and brought the show, indeed.
But, until it was over — the Campbell Hall Vikings had won 77-71 and Immanuel High students were flocking around Ray Romano — the comedian was lost in this one Tuesday night.
Too much glitter on the floor.
He came to watch his son, Joe, and a Campbell Hall team featuring a senior point guard, Aaron Holiday, whose basketball career will next find UCLA and then surely the NBA as well.
He scored 35 points.
But very much sharing this show, very much belonging at this level of the Southern California Division IV Regionals, were Immanuel’s Colin Slater and Darrin Person Jr.
They scored 35 and 29. As a junior and sophomore, no less.
What a show, indeed, before an overflow crowd of nearly 1,000.
“I loved playing at this level of competition, but that’s why it hurts so much,” said Person, tears streaming. “It hurts, it burns, man. When that buzzer went off, I knew next year would be a better year.”
Hard to beat this one. In fact, the 30-3 Eagles never have.
And to think win No. 31 was actually attainable in a semifinal that had Holiday and the 27-9 Vikings from the Southern Section running away, 43-27, at halftime.
But Slater was electric, routinely beating Holiday off the dribble and drawing Holiday’s third and fourth personal fouls late in the third quarter.
Immanuel had already made a charge at that point, hacking the deficit to 61-53. But with Holiday going to the bench, the Eagles continued to soar and remained in it when he returned early in the fourth.
In fact, Immanuel fans — who had packed the venue an hour before tipoff and spilled 10 deep into the lobby, where they watched a live stream on a flat-screen TV — were deafening when Slater launched a 22-foot 3-point attempt with a chance to tie with 10 seconds remaining.
The ball struck the back rim, slid to the front and popped out.
“We get the shot we wanted and from the guy we wanted to take it,” Eagles coach C.J. Haydock said. “It falls, it’s a tie game and a different result, right?”
Instead, Campbell Hall — up 72-69 — then sealed it with 4-for-4 free-throw shooting from Jordan Cohen, who finished with 17 points.
Then, and only then, did Slater and Holiday embrace following a national-class duel of point guards.
“That was the pinnacle of high school basketball: Those two absolutely competing against each other on every possession,” Haydock said. “They chirped a bit during the game and did whatever it took. But, at the end of the game, they give each other a huge hug. Those are two ultimate competitors.”
Haydock also immediately pointed to next year, when he will also return experienced guards Nate Kendricks, Dario Aluisi and R.J. Horn, the only other Eagle to score, with eight points.
“Carryover? I sure hope so,” he said. “As a coach, when you lose is when coaching starts. How much does this hurt the young guys and how much do they leverage it forward?
“I graduate six seniors, but I also return a lot of our points. So how much will it translate into real hunger in August, in October and November? We’ll put this in our pocket, carry a chip on our shoulder and go from there.”