Clovis North girls beat Clovis advance to Open final, boys lose heartbreaker to Memorial
The Clovis North girls advance to the CIF Central Section finals to face No. 1 Clovis West while the boys are outscored by 13 in the final five minutes in loss to San Joaquin Memorial.
Clovis North coach Heather Long and Rowan Hein discuss strategy in the Broncos win over upset-minded Clovis. (PHOTO BY RAW SPORTZ)
It was a night of celebration and a night of heartbreak for the Clovis North basketball programs.
Both seeded No. 2 and playing back-to-back in the aptly named Stables Center, the Broncos girls won a wild game 68-65 against rival Clovis to reach the Open Division title game while the boys blew a nine point lead with just over five minutes left in a devastating 74-70 loss to San Joaquin Memorial.
The Clovis North girls will take on No. 1 Clovis West (26-4) in the Central Section title game for the third straight year. Clovis West is attempting to win its eighth straight title.
“We are going to be back in Selland Arena for the third year in a row and let’s not take that for granted,” Broncos head coach Heather Long said she told the team after the win.
“We have a whole week to prepare and get ready. It should be fun.”
But to get there the Broncos had to beat a well-coached and scrappy Clovis team that split their two league games. In their last meeting Clovis North (23-7) trounced the Cougars 73-38 at home but Clovis was without star senior Avery Evans who had broke her wrist a week earlier. However, Evans suited up and gave Clovis a lift.
The see-saw game settled into a halftime tie at 36 as Clovis North’s Laney Amundsen scored 14 points, mainly off layups in a half-court set.
The second half featured four lead changes, the biggest margin a 55-45 Bronco lead at the 1:30 mark in the third quarter after a Rowan Hein drive and layup.
However, the resilient Cougars (21-9) battled back to take a 60-57 lead with 4:19 left in the fourth on a steal and layup from freshman Genevieve Tamondong. But a Savannah Tucker layup broke a 62-62 tie with 2:13 left.
Then, as can be the case in a high-level, high-stakes game, craziness ensued.
Down 67-65 with 36.3 seconds, Clovis had possession but turned over the ball on an out-of-bounds five-seconds call after a timeout. Clovis North then returned the favor a five-second call, this time with 18.4.
Clovis then threw an inbounds pass out of bounds and after a foul, rebounded the front end of a one-in-one miss.
After a timeout by Clovis coach Greg Clark, Cougars guard Kiley Butchert was called for an offensive foul on a drive to the basket, sinking the shot as the Cougars protested in disbelief.
“As a team we really had to focus and stay calm in that moment,” Tucker said about the game’s final sequence. “We have been in many similar situations like these all year so it really wasn’t nothing new for us. We knew what we had to do so we came together and made it happen.”
Tucker, who scored 15 points and became Clovis Unified’s all-time leader scorer with 2,299, hit the front end of a one-in-one before a last second heave by Clovis fell way short after a miss.
“They do such a great job, Greg does such a great job – he’s such a good coach,” Long said. “They are going to give you the best they can.”
Amundsen finished with a game-high 20 and Hein added 16 for the Broncos. Butchert led Clovis with 15 and Kelsey Delgado scored 12.
Clovis North and Clovis West are scheduled to play Saturday, Feb. 29 at 6:00. Clovis and Buchanan will play Thursday, Feb. 27 in the third place game.
BOYS FALL TO SAN JOAQUIN MEMORIAL
Clovis North simply could not stop the bleeding in a nightmare fourth quarter against the Panthers.
Leading 63-54 after an AK Okereke basket with 5:01 remaining and a trip to the Central Section Open finals on the line, No. 3 San Joaquin Memorial went on a 20-7 run to end the game, spoiling a chance for the Broncos first trip to a championship game since 2015.
The Panthers used their quickness to smother the Broncos down the stretch, taking the lead for good at 65-63 on a Jo Jo Hunter basket.
The stellar Broncos frontcourt of Terri Miller (15 points, 12 rebounds) and Okereke (16 points, 7 rebounds) played excellent, controlling the inside. However, talented junior Jadon Geron, at 6-foot-7, would pump in a game-high 23 points with Hunter scoring 20.
Senior Sammy Al-Saber scored 11 and Malachi Henry chipped in with 10 for the Broncos.
Despite the Broncos loss, they will play No. 4 Arroyo Grande in the Open third place game on Thursday, Feb. 27 at home. All eight teams are guaranteed placement in the CIF State playoffs, divisions will be determined later.