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In a matter of four days, the Garces boys basketball team made a very loud and clear statement how good this team can be.

In the championship game of the inaugural South Yosemite Conference tournament, the Rams defeated Bakersfield High 57-54 in overtime for the tournament title and put the Central Section Division III seedings in a whirlwind.

“This feels great, but first, all of the credit to Bakersfield High school, they’ve been the best team in town at least the last four years,” Garces coach Brian Dignan said. “It feels great to come out and beat a great team that is very well coached with great players. I give it up to our players. They played their tails off.”

After losing to the Drillers both times in Southwest Yosemite League play, the Rams jumped out to a 21-8 lead and held a 16-point halftime lead.

But the Drillers came back and tied the game at 50-50 with 2:30 left in regulation, forcing overtime.

“It was a huge win. In the first of these tournaments and for us to win it, it’s unbelievable man,” Garces senior Jack Hatten said. “I’m speechless.”

Hatten scored a game-high 20 points for the Rams (19-9) that comes off the heels of a four-day tournament run.

The Rams opened up Monday with a 77-40 win over Foothill and beat Centennial 68-65 in the quarterfinals. In the semifinals, the Rams defeated Bakersfield Christian, the top-seeded team in D-II going into the tournament by MaxPreps.com, 49-43.

With the four-game tournament title now, the question looms where the Rams will be come Saturday’s unveiling of the section playoff brackets that begin with the first round on Tuesday.

The Rams came into the week ranked No. 4 in D-II by MaxPreps, but wins over Centennial, BHS (ranked No. 5 in D-I) and BCHS, the Rams have a very strong case for a top-2 seed that would guarantee the Rams three home playoff games with wins in the first two rounds next week. 

“We know D-III is going to be tough. There are some great teams in there,” Dignan said. “But playing a team like BHS and in a tournament like this. We know we couldn’t get four practices in that would prepare us like this tournament does. We are happy that the tournament is here and extremely happy to be victorious.”

J.J. Uphold recorded his second consecutive double-double with 11 points and and 10 rebounds while Ipreye Egbe added 14 points for Garces. 

“This is everything. We work hard everyday and play for each other,” Egbe said. “Everybody is a leader and this is what it comes to.”

South Yosemite Conference Championships

Garces 57, Bakersfield 54 (OT)

GMHS (19-9): Uphold 11, D’Amato 4, Hatten 20, Egbe 14, Marshall 2, Sevier 4, Campbell 2.

BHS (22-6): Whatley 13, Ackerman 7, Geary 16, McGee 4, Martinez 6, Revecho 8.

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