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Clovis West boys and girls punch ticket to section title games

Both No. 1 seeds will play in inaugural Central Section Open Division championship games on Feb. 29 after beating Arroyo Grande and Buchanan.

There will be plenty of maroon, gold and white on the court next Saturday at Selland Arena. 

The Clovis West boys and girls teams continue their extraordinary seasons as they swept an afternoon home double-header against Arroyo Grande and Buchanan respectively to advance to the Central Section Open Division championship games on Saturday.  

Both teams were seeded No. 1 and now boast incredible 26-4 records. However, each had different paths to reach the title game.

The boys had to rally from a 16-3 first quarter deficit and rode point guard Jarren Carr’s 11 third quarter points and Cole Anderson’s game-high 23 to beat the Eagles 63-54.   

The girls, behind Nikki Tom’s 24 and Aaliyah Seuell’s 19 points, stepped on the gas early, jumping out to a 40-16 halftime lead to beat Buchanan 66-38.

The Craig Campbell-coached squad will attempt to win its unprecedented eighth straight Central Section championship, a sweet thought since it’s the section’s first Open Division. 

“It’s exciting to have the opportunity, a lot of people counted us out and thought we weren’t going to be back,” Campbell said. “So to have this opportunity in the first ever Open Division is pretty special.”

The Open Division was implemented as the top overall division for state playoffs in 2013, but this is the first year the Central Section adopted it. The Golden Eagles won the CIF Open Division state title in 2017 and have made the SoCal Open championship game the last three years. 

Clovis West will meet Clovis North for a third straight time in the section title game. The Broncos defeated Clovis 68-65 at home in the other semifinal game.

To reach the championship game, Clovis West had to beat Buchanan for the third time this season, a team that played them tough in the first half in both games. In the first meeting, the Bears (18-11) led 33-19 at half and in the second, Clovis West held a slight six point lead at half. 

This time, Clovis West started off hot as Seuell, the lone senior starter, sank two 3-pointers and a 12-foot jump for an 8-0 lead. In all, the Golden Eagles would hit 12 threes from four different players. 

“We wanted to stay locked in and chase them off the 3-point line,” Campbell said. “Every time they made one or two buckets in the first quarter we answered at the other end so they were never able to string a run together.” 

Tom, who Campbell calls “the best player in the Valley”, scored 15 of her 24 points in the first half. Freshman Etoya Montgomery and junior guard Allysa Kuniyoshi each scored eight and hit two threes. 

Buchanan was led by junior guard Olivia Gacia’s 11 points and senior Morgan Mathis’ nine on three 3-pointers. 

“It’s very rewarding because our team works really hard in practice,” said Kuniyoshi, who scored five consecutive points on a three and 10-foot baseline jump shot in the second quarter. “Coach Campbell has high expectations for us. He always wants us to do our best and we know we can achieve it.”

Currently ranked No. 12 by Cal-Hi Sports, the Golden Eagles will play No. 25 Clovis North on Feb. 29 at 6:00 at Selland Arena. 

BOYS RALLY BEHIND ANDERSON AND CARR

The defending Central Section champs and the Vance Walberg-coached boys team had a more difficult route to reach the Open title game, one that has been routine all season for the Golden Eagles. 

Down 16-3 early and 17-9 after one quarter, Clovis West struggled to convert layups and missed free throws, allowing Arroyo Grande (23-6) to score inside. In fact, with 3:07 left in the half, the Golden Eagles were down 21-11. 

However, Anderson, who came in averaging 27 points per game, converted a layup that fueled a 14-5 run to end the quarter.

After that, it was all Clovis West.  

In the third, Carr took over with a variety of drives to the hoop as the 5-foot-4 point guard routinely beat his man off the dribble, scoring 11 points in the quarter as Clovis West opened up a 49-40 lead. 

In the fourth, 6-foot-5 senior Max Phillips controlled the inside with four points and four rebounds. He and Carr would finish with 15 points each. 

“Every game has started off like that for us the entire season,” Carr said. “But we just dig deep every single time and find a way and stick together.”

And what got behind Carr in that pivotal third period?

“I got yelled at because I missed a lot of layups in the first half so I had to come out and show ‘em something in that third quarter.”

Arroyo Grande’s Gage Gomez led the team with 22 points and Tyler Armstrong chipped in with 12. 

In the game, Anderson, a junior, broke a Central Section record and reached a scoring milestone according to Central Section historian Bob Barnett. With a first quarter three-pointer, Anderson broke the section career 3-point record and eclipsed 2,000 points for his career. 

Clovis West will face No. 3 San Joaquin Memorial who came back to defeat Clovis North 74-70. The two will face off on Feb. 29 at 8:00 at Selland Arena after the Clovis West girls play Clovis North at 6:00. 

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