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Talented, intense, fun; Your girls basketball preview

With Clovis North and Clovis West ranked in the top 15 in the state combined with the talent of Clovis and Buchanan, the competition for league supremacy will be fierce. Here is your breakdown of every CUSD team with players to watch, team strengths and videos.

Clovis North senior guard Savannah Tucker is the school’s all-time leading scorer and is averaging 28 points per game for the 13-4 Broncos. (PHOTO BY AN EYE FOR IT ALL PHOTOGRAPHY)

Many think the Tri-River Athletic Conference boasts the best brand of public school girls basketball in the state.

We tend to agree.

Let’s make a case here: Clovis North is ranked No. 11 in the state by Cal-Hi Sports and Clovis West sits at No. 15. In addition, MaxPreps has Clovis at No. 27 and Buchanan No. 57. Where else are you going to find four public schools in the same league ranked in the top 60?

It’s the league where you’ll find the extraordinary ball handling and shooting of Clovis West’s Nikki Tom, the scoring machine that is Clovis North’s Savannah Tucker and the inside/outside play of Avery Evans from Clovis. You’ll also see Morgan Mathis from Buchanan lighting it up from anywhere and Clovis East’s Jayden Berry’s all-around play.

The biggest rivalry certainly lies with the Broncos and Golden Eagles, who kick off league at the Stables Center on Jan. 10. Last year Clovis North broke Clovis West’s 68 game league winning streak and shared the TRAC title. However, the Golden Eagles exacted revenge with a 73-36 win over the Broncos in the D-I final on their way to making its third straight CIF Open Division SoCal final. In fact, the two teams also met in the Central Section title game in 2018, a 63-49 C-Dub win.  

So as you can see, there’s no lack of storyline this year in girls basketball.

And of note: games will begin at 5:30 p.m. during league except when they play Central, ensuring everyone will be able to get a great look at some excellent basketball … some of the best in the state.

Here is a breakdown of each team: 

Clovis West (14-4), No. 21 in state by MaxPreps

Coach Craig Campbell

Breaking it down: Coming off a 96-4 record and 10 consecutive TRAC titles this past decade, including seven straight D-I Central Section titles, a 2017 CIF Open Division title and No. 1 national ranking, Clovis West and coach Craig Campbell continue to put up wins with pressure defense and offensive execution. They handily won their own Nike Showdown then traveled to the CresCom Bank Invitational in South Carolina and the SoCal Holiday Classic in San Diego where they went 4-4 combined but came back battle tested against nationally ranked opponents. The team is led by junior guard Nikki Tom (16 ppg), an All-State selection the last two years, senior forward Aaliyah Sewell (12 ppg) and junior forward Justyce Harris (7 ppg, 11 rebounds). Junior guards Alexa Silva, Kendall Jackson and Alyssa Kuniyoshi provide spark and look out for freshman Etoyah Montgomery, who stands 6-foot-1 and has shown flashes of greatness.

Signature win: Chaminade 51-42 on Jan. 4. 

Bottom line: With an experienced Nikki Tom at the helm, pressure defense and a non-stop attacking offense, the Golden Eagles are still the queens of the court until they are knocked off. 

Clovis North (13-4), No. 19 in state by MaxPreps

Coach Heather Long

Breaking it down: Last year the Broncos beat Clovis West 40-36 at home to share a conference title. This season, out of the team’s 13 wins six of them have been by four points or less, a sign they are playing clutch basketball. They placed third at the Nike TOC Anderson Division. The Heather Long coached team leans heavily on two four-year varsity starters in Long Beach State signee Savannah Tucker, the school’s all-time leading scorer with over 2,000 points, and University of Denver bound Rowan Hein (11 ppg, 6.5 rebounds). Tucker has improved her shooting range – a scary thought to be sure – and is on a scoring tear this year, averaging 28 ppg along with six rebounds. Six-foot junior Laney Amundsen (daughter of Bullard boys coach Tim and uncle to Clovis North coach Tony) provides some scoring and rebounds and sophomore guard Asha Sra returns after getting major playing time as a freshman.

Signature win: St. Mary’s 55-54 on Dec. 21. 

Bottom line: With the experienced Tucker, the top player in the section, the Broncos will be tough to beat along with Hein, a fellow four-year varsity player. 

Clovis (13-4) No. 27 in state by MaxPreps

Coach Greg Clark

Breaking it down: After reaching the NoCal D-II state semifinals last season and the NorCal D-III semis the year before, the Cougars have been road warriors again this year, playing only two games in their own gym. Showcasing a strong overall team – strong shooters, players who can get to the rim and hard-nosed defense – they won the Golden Crown Tip-Off in San Diego during Christmas break. Fifth-year coach Greg Clark’s team features a pair of outstanding seniors in Avery Evans (15 ppg, 5 rebounds) and Chloe Van Ness (14 ppg, 75 threes, including six in one quarter). Junior Kiley Butchert is averaging 7 points, 5 assists and Megan Esler is kicking in 9 points per game. Senior point guard Kelsey Delgado is averaging 4 assists and 3 steals in a vital role for the Cougars.

Signature win: 64-49 win over San Leandro on Jan. 3. 

Bottom line: With Clovis West and Clovis North getting a lot of attention it’s not wise to overlook the talented Cougars, especially with Evans and Van Ness’ ability to get buckets.  

Buchanan (13-5), No. 59 in state by MaxPreps

Coach Adam Wall

Breaking it down: Since Adam Wall took over in 2017 Buchanan has improved every season, including a 19-10 mark last year and 12-5 this season. Two of their five losses this season are to state No. 19 Chaminade and No. 20 Miramonte at the West Coast Jamboree in Diamond Bar before winning the Old Town Clovis Tournament in dominating fashion. The Bears marquee player is senior Morgan Mathis (18 ppg), the school’s all-time leading scorer, a pure scorer in every sense of the word. Junior point guard Olivia Garcia (12 ppg, 4.5 assists) makes the team go while senior Sara Snider (8 ppg, 6 rebounds) and junior Ashtyn Arnold (12 ppg, 7 rebounds) provide toughness and productivity.   

Signature win: Marlborough 58-52 on Dec. 27. 

Bottom line: When you have a player like Morgan Mathis and a strong supporting cast they’ll be more than a formidable opponent, playing a style that mirrors coach Adam Wall’s enthusiasm and attention to detail.

Clovis East (4-10)

Coach Garrette Mantle

Clovis East is struggling this year with a 4-10 record after going 8-20 last year under new head coach Garrette Mantle. Junior Jayden Berry has made all-tournament teams and is clearly the Timberwolves best player. They went 2-2 at the beginning of the year at the Lady Emps Tournament in Dinuba to start the season and then dropped all four games at the San Luis Tournament. 

Clovis East junior Jayden Berry scores a layup for the 4-10 Timberwolves.

Signature win: Exeter 67-44

Bottom line: It’ll be tough sledding for the Timberwolves all season despite Berry’s best efforts. 

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