SELMA — The Selma boys basketball team advanced to the semifinals of the California Interscholastic Federation Div. II playoffs after defeating Lemoore High School 75-58 at home in the quarterfinals on Feb. 22.
It was the first playoff game of the season for Selma, which entered the postseason as the No. 3 seed with a first-round bye.
The Bears played 10th-seeded Fresno High School (after press time) on Feb. 27. At the time, Selma was one game away from appearing in its third-straight Valley Championship game at Selland Arena.
“We’re just one game away,” Bears’ head coach Mike Pallesi said after the team’s quarterfinals win. “Fresno High is really good, but we are too. You have two teams that will have a great game … and the winner goes to Selland.”
Even though Fresno is a 10th seed after going 10-21 overall, the Warriors’ record is misleading after forfeiting 12 games due to playing an ineligible player.
Fresno had two impressive wins over No. 7 Independence and No. 2 Hanford High School. The Warriors defeated Independence 75-58 and Hanford 57-55.
“They’re a two or a three [seed],” Pallesi said. “They’re proving it that they’re not a 10 seed.”
Fresno was one of the three double-digit seeds to win at least a playoff game in the CIF Central Section Div. II bracket.
“In Division II, anybody could beat anybody,” Pallesi said. “It’s just a tough division.”
Lemoore was one of those double-digit seeds.
In Selma’s quarterfinal game, the 11th-seeded Tigers had a fast start to the game by leading 11-9 midway in the first quarter. Selma would settle down on both ends of the floor by going on a 12-2 run to end the quarter for a 21-13 lead.
In the second quarter, Lemoore had a similar start by cutting its deficit to three with the score at 22-19 with 6:12 left to play in the first half. Later in the quarter, Selma regained the upper hand with a 40-33 halftime lead.
The second half is when the Bears started pulling away, ending the third quarter with a 59-46 lead.
Selma’s double-digit lead late in the game would be too much to overcome for Lemoore.
Pallesi said he attended the Tigers first round upset of No. 6-seed Tulare Union. He said Lemoore is a “good team.”
“We weren’t overlooking them, we watched them on film all week,” Pallesi said. “We knew they were good, I watched them live.”
Lemoore head coach Joel Sligh, who played basketball for Kingsburg High School in the late ‘90s, said Selma has been a well-coached team all season.
“I’ve known Mike Pallesi for many years,” Sligh said. “His team was well prepared. They’re a good solid team, they’re at home, it’s playoffs, they’ve been here many times.”
One of Pallesi’s players, William Pallesi - who is also Mike’s son - said he’s looking forward to playing another game that will extend the season.
“It hasn’t really sunk in yet that if we lose, we can go home,” William Pallesi said after the Bears quarterfinal win. “So it's kind of a mixed feeling of joy and not sadness, but you don’t want it to end.”
William Pallesi was one of three Selma players who scored 20 or more points in the quarterfinal game. He scored 22 points, leading the Bears. Seniors Manny Singh and Junior Ramirez scored 20 points each.
William Pallesi - who is will play at UC San Diego next year - said “it’ll be amazing” to win a Valley championship after moving up divisions this year. The senior who plays guard and forward said a section title this year would mean defeating tough teams like Fresno and top-seeded San Joaquin Memorial.
“Winning would be icing on the cake,” William Pallesi said, “and the cherry on top for our senior season.”