Corey Costelloe mug

Corey Costelloe

It’s been a banner week for Tehachapi home basketball. The crowds were great, the support hit the next level and for the Lady Warriors, that helped them advance to the CIF Central Section Division II semifinals.

“The girls feed on it. It’s a small-town vibe here and we love it,” head coach Jimi Perkins told the media after Thursday’s win over Redwood. He had also just complimented the level of support and buzz he felt over the past week in the community, online, on game days and just around town. It’s Tehachapi support at its finest.

I’ve been proud to champion the cause of both the boys and girls teams this season. If you remember back when the seasons started, I mentioned there was a stigma to overcome. That stigma felt around the Valley and occasionally here in Tehachapi was that basketball really wasn’t “our sport.” We’ve been successful at times, but never really respected for our efforts historically.

I think after the performances that both teams turned in this season and the difference that the fans made, that respect is coming to fruition. It's clear that any sport can be “our sport” with the right combination of coaching, talent and community engagement.

Hometown support is vital. We have an amazing advantage with one team and one town. Our fans aren’t just parents and family of current players, they’re legacy supporters. They’re current students, alumni and community members who might not even know the names of the kids on the court, but they’ve invested in the Warriors. They’re invested in Tehachapi for life.

If we can bottle up the excitement, the noise level and the support shown to the basketball teams over the last three weeks and duplicate it in years to come, I’m pretty sure Tehachapi will become famous for “you don’t want to play there.” Not in a negative way, but in one that instills a little fear and second-guessing on the minds of those who dare to walk into our gym and think about winning a game.

That type of support, even during two 5 p.m. tipoff games this past week for the Lady Warriors, was critical in getting them to the semifinals. The noise level alone at times made it hard to think; if I had to shout just to be heard over the public address system, then it was alright with me. That meant the points were meaningful, the plays extraordinary, the crowd was alive.

There’s nothing better than being stopped around town to talk about “the game,” to engage with fans who have stories about their feelings, their emotions and their reactions to what they’re seeing from the stands. Success has that sort of effect on a team, on a town, and although the home schedule is completed, it certainly doesn’t have to stop. There are more playoff basketball to be played and there are more seasons to come in the future.

Remember those feelings, recall those memories and just remember that any sport can be “our sport.” From where it started this season to where it is now, I’m really proud of this town, these teams and the concept that while Tehachapi grows, the Warriors can continue to be a cornerstone for this community.

One team, one town and a job well done.

Corey Costelloe has covered NCAA, professional and local sports for more than 20 years as a reporter and broadcaster. A THS graduate, he now resides in Tehachapi. He can be reached at corey.costelloe@gmail.com. The opinions expressed are his own.