Clovis West falls to Memorial in Open Division championship clash
The top-seeded Golden Eagles struggle down the stretch against the No. 3 Panthers, eventually falling 51-49 in a defensive battle.
Clovis West couldn’t replicate last year’s magic when they beat Bullard in double overtime victory to win the Central Section D-I title.
And it certainly wasn’t for a lack of opportunities this year against a defensive-minded San Joaquin Memorial squad in the Open Division championship game.
The Golden Eagles had four possessions under 1:35 left to either tie or cut the Memorial lead to one but failed in all four, eventually falling 51-49 to the Panthers at Selland Arena in a loss that will elicit tons of what-if questions.
With 10.5 seconds to go and down 50-47, Clovis West Coach Vance Walberg called his final timeout and set up a play for star Cole Anderson who caught the ball in the corner and hoisted a three-pointer that bounced off the front rim.
Preston Kilbert was able to tip the ball in with 3.8 seconds on the clock to make the score 50-49 when Walberg called a timeout. However, there was a purpose behind the madness as the clock would have run out, securing a Memorial win. In high school basketball the clock does not stop on a made basket.
A technical foul was called and Jaden Geron hit one of two free throws. The 6-foot-7 forward was immediately fouled on the inbounds pass and missed the front end of the one-in-one as Kilbert grabbed the rebound. But his desperation heave from way beyond half court landed long over the backboard.
“We had one guy on Cole all night and we said if we have to switch then switch,” Memorial coach Brad Roznovsky said about guarding Anderson on those four possessions. “If he hits one we’re tied and worst case scenario we have the ball trying to win it.”
Scoring was certainly a struggle for Clovis West, who came in averaging 73 points. They were held to 32.2% shooting in the game and just 4-15 from 3-point land.
Memorial’s Devin Newsome was tasked with guarding Anderson and forced the section’s leading scorer at 27 points per game into tough shots. The junior would finish with 16 points on 5-14 from the field including 3-6 from the 3-point line.
“We weren’t great offensively but we really guarded, it was probably the toughest 16 he’s ever had,” Roznovsky said about Anderson. “I have so much respect for Cole, I’ve known him for a while.
“He’s earned the top player in the area and he’s going to be playing big-time basketball in the future, as good as he is our plan was to stop him.”
Despite their offensive struggles, Clovis West took a short lived 33-30 lead midway through the third quarter on a 3-pointer from freshman Isaac Martinez.
However, Memorial answered with a 10-0 run, highlighted by Joseph Hunter’s four points.
Geron led the Panthers, who had won two consecutive Central Section Division II titles, with 16 points and 9 rebounds. Hunter, a sophomore, finished with 14.
Clovis West senior Max Phillips scored 12 abd the next highest scorer was Jarren Carr with six.
“Obviously Vance has the resume and they are so solid and so well coached,” Roznovsky said. “Going against guys like that and to come out on top is gratifying to me and the kids.”