FRESNO — A late rally from Selma wouldn’t be enough to keep the Bears from losing 71-66 to San Joaquin Memorial in the California Interscholastic Federation Central Section Division II Championship March 2 at Selland Arena.
After San Joaquin Memorial started to pull away with a 65-50 lead late in the fourth quarter, the Selma boys basketball team rallied back to cut its deficit to 69-66 with 11.4 seconds to play. A three-pointer from Selma senior forward William Pallesi made it a one possession game.
That would be the final points Selma would make after Dameane Douglas and Jalen Green of the Panthers extended their lead by each making a free-throw. Both were fouled in the final two possessions of the game.
Pallesi, who was part of last year’s Division III Valley championship team, said losing by a close margin made it a tough loss.
“Five points decide whether if you’re a champion or runner-up,” Pallesi said. “That was probably the toughest part [at the end].”
Pallesi considered San Joaquin Memorial as the best team in the Central Valley. Throughout the game, the UC San Diego-bound player guarded Green and Douglas, who are considered among the top players in the area.
“He’s a tough player to guard,” Pallesi said about Green. “He’s very quick and long.”
When guarding Douglas, Pallesi said his “big and athletic” 6-foot-6-inch 185-pound frame took a while in the game to get used to playing against whenever he was driving in the post. Pallesi said he was up to the challenge.
“I like competition,” Pallesi said. “Anytime I get the chance to play against the best athletes, I want to play against them.”
Pallesi finished the game with 19 points and was honored post-game with one of the two spirit awards, for the most inspirational players on the teams. Green was the other recipient of the honor.
Another player that helped the Bears rally was senior center Tiveon Stroud. He recorded a double-double with 17 points and 12 rebounds. Stroud was also a strong defensive presence for Selma with one block and four steals.
“They played a good game,” Stroud said. “It’s not like we weren’t playing good enough, we were playing our hardest and that’s what matters to me. ...win or lose I still love my team.”
Both Pallesi and Stroud were on the Bears varsity squad since freshman year along with teammates Junior Ramirez and Manny Singh. All four were on the same starting lineup for most of this season.
Ramirez scored 12 points and recorded five assists along with six rebounds. Singh scored nine points on a 3-of-6 shooting night.
Stroud said he’s proud how far the program has come since his freshman year.
“We’ve got far for being a little town,” Stroud said. “No one really thought we would get this far, but as you see, we made it this far.”
The core of Stroud, Pallesi, Singh and Ramirez had success in their four years together. They made the postseason every season along with competing in the state playoffs. Selma has played in three-straight Valley championship games since the 2015-16 season. The Bears were crowned on top last season and were runner-ups the previous year.
They will get one more opportunity to play on the hardwood by competing in the CIF State playoffs starting on March 7.
Selma will enter the CIF State Division II playoffs as a No. 15 seed in the Southern Regional bracket. The Bears will head to Santa Monica to play two-seeded Crossroads School in the first round. Crossroads’ roster features Shareef O’Neal, who is the son of Shaquille O’Neal.