I found it conveniently ironic that a book I recently started reading seemed to coincide with the start of the high school basketball season. The topic was reshaping the way one thinks, and not falling into the traps and boundaries brought on by others or succumbing to limitations or barriers established by those around you.
We see it all the time in this community; the lack of opportunities many think they have lead them down a path of acceptance and repetition of a similar cycle. Some fail to imagine that so much more is possible because they have yet to free their minds from the voices telling them otherwise.
So, what does this have to do with high school basketball? In the case of our Tehachapi Warriors and Lady Warriors, I’d pretty much say everything. The regular season starts this week after a Thanksgiving hiatus and a successful pair of scrimmages for both squads. Any time a Tehachapi team beats Centennial on the court, scrimmage or not, it’s cause for optimism. The girls look equally tough. Taking down a few CIF Southern Section opponents with stifling defense, they show a lot of promise.
I’ve caught myself saying it too. So we can all admit that we’ve come to write off basketball around here as something “we’re just not good at.” History would support that claim to an extent. Looking over the Warriors’ history, we find only two CIF championships since the team took the floor in the mid-1940s: the 1951-’52 season and again 55 years later in the 2006-’07 season. There have been some league titles mixed in throughout the South Sierra, Desert Inyo, South Sequoia and Southeast Yosemite Leagues, but there hasn’t been a finish better than third place since joining the current South Yosemite League in 2014.
On the Lady Warriors’ side, the one and only CIF championship came in 1979-80 with a team that finished second in the DIL only to post a 5-0 mark en route to the only section championship in ladies' hoops history. There are 11 league titles to speak of, the last coming in 2009-10 when Tehachapi played in the South Sequoia League.
History says we’re competitive, but not that good. We play respectable basketball but lack the talent to be great. That’s what the rest of the world says, that’s what sometimes we say, too. But I’ve made a career scouting basketball teams, players, coaches and pieces of the puzzle. I know we’ve had pieces before, but were limited to one or two. I’m encouraged that this season both the boys and girls varsity teams have multiple talented pieces that seem to complement one another.
Coaching seems to be a positive as well. Moe Cramer is a self-proclaimed disciple of Chris Olofson, the last Tehachapi coach to win a CIF championship. His coaching style is gleaned from the huddles on Olofson’s bench. It’s a hard-edged, results-driven, preparation-dominated style that values defense, hustle and grit. While we admittedly lack the athletes seen around the rest of the SYL, we can use defense as the great equalizer. Having been part of two of the best defending teams in the history of the Western Athletic Conference during my time at Cal State Bakersfield, believe me, defense levels the playing field.
On the girl’s side, Jimi Perkins is running things on the interim until the return of Jason Grimes, but the two have worked together before and bring that same defense-first mentality to the court. They too have plenty of talented pieces to work with that will require balance to be successful. A deep bench can make all the difference and both Tehachapi teams have that this season.
I’m always going to be optimistic about our teams, because the alternative simply plays into the hands of what we’ve been hearing around the Central Section for years, especially when it comes to basketball. We simply can’t write off a program based on the words of others and the misconception that we’re not great at a sport. History says we’ve been close to that greatness but come up a tad shy.
Could 2018-19 be the start of something new for THS basketball? I certainly don’t see why not. I’d rather be optimistic now and be reassured of that feeling in February than play into the hands of the naysayers. Let’s be honest: the naysayers have never written a feel-good story like this season has the potential to be.
Welcome to Warrior basketball season.
Corey Costelloe has covered the NCAA, professional and local sports for more than 20 years as a reporter and broadcaster. A THS graduate, he now resides and works in Tehachapi. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. The opinions expressed are his own.