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Clovis North outlasts Clovis East in second straight OT thriller

After losing in overtime four days earlier to Clovis West, the Broncos rally from down 11 in the third quarter to beat the Timberwolves 76-65 in overtime.

Clovis North junior AK Okereke flies in for a left handed slam dunk in overtime in the Broncos 76-65 win over Clovis East to improve to 13-6 on the season. (PHOTO BY AN EYE FOR IT ALL PHOTOGRAPHY)

CLOVIS — After a second straight overtime game to open up league, Clovis North forward AK Okereke had a simple message for his team right before overtime: “We are not losing again.”

And sure enough, just four days after being outscored 10-2 by Clovis West in overtime in an emotional loss, the Broncos came back down 11 late in the third quarter to eventually force overtime, outscoring Clovis East 14-3 in the extra period to beat the Timberwolves 76-65 at home. 

Broncos head coach Tony Amundsen put perspective on the last four days: “I think I’ve aged about six years in the last two games.”

Nonetheless, and thanks to balanced scoring including Okereke’s and Malachi Henry’s 18 points each, Clovis North withstood a tough Clovis East squad to improve to 13-6 overall and 1-1 in league. 

The see-saw battle between two of the top teams in the Central Section saw Clovis North take a 29-20 lead midway through the second quarter behind the strong play of Okereke and Henry. However, the Timberwolves would outscore the Broncos 13-3 the rest of the quarter, highlighted by senior Jermal Pittman’s running 3-point bank shot at the buzzer from just inside half court for a 33-32 halftime lead. 

Clovis North rallied down 53-41 with 1:39 left in the third, closing the gap to 53-50 behind 6-foot-7 Terri Miller’s seven points.

“We knew we had to run our stuff and just have to keep grinding,” Okereke said about the team’s mindset. “And get stops on defense and have good possessions on offense.”

They certainly did as Henry nailed back-to-back three-pointers to push Clovis North to a 58-57 lead with 1:49 left. But a Pittman three gave the Timberwolves a 60-58 lead that Okereke would answer with a bucket. 

Senior Will Wiggins’ drive and layup with 10.6 seconds remaining sent the game to OT. 

That’s when the Broncos played team basketball. 

“The one thing we talk about with our kids is not to play hero ball,” Amundsen said. “We want to do it together and trust each other.”

Okereke’s left handed dunk (he shoots right handed) and Sammy Al-Saber’s 3-pointer opened up a seven point lead the Timberwolves would never recover from. 

Al-Saber, a senior guard, hit three 3-pointers on his way to 15 points and Miller added 14 offsetting Pittman’s 20, Wiggins 17 and Cam Thompson’s 14. 

“They cause problems for other teams – they are a tough matchup,” Amundsen said about the Adrian Wiggins’ coached Timberwolves. “They are so deliberate with their offense and really well coached. It was a great win for us tonight.”

Amundsen praised the play of the 6-foot-5 Okereke and the clutch-shooting of Henry. 

“It was nice to see AK play well because he struggled a little bit against Clovis West,” he said. “He actually struggled in the first half tonight but he had a great second half. He plays good D that’s really consistent and Malachi played outstanding.”

Clovis East will play at Clovis West while Clovis North plays at Clovis on Friday, Jan. 17.

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