D-I titlists Bullard boys, Hanford girls aim for return to finals

The Fresno BeeDecember 17, 2012 

They are the Central Section's defending Division I basketball champions -- one 3-0, the other 6-2 -- yet with contrasting buzz.

"Very pleased," says Tony Amundsen, coach of Bullard's boys, the 3-0 team.

"Off to a slow start," says Tom Parrish, coach of Hanford's girls, the 6-2 team.

Only in Hanford, perhaps, in all of section hoops -- boys or girls -- would a 6-2 start be considered "slow."

That's because the Bullpups are 180-44 with five consecutive section titles in eight seasons under Parrish.

But they did have a 97-game winning streak against section competition crushed in a 73-47 loss to Ridgeview three weeks ago.

And, for that reason, Ridge-view and Hanford are ranked Nos. 1-2 in The Bee's first rankings.

In the boys, it's Bullard, Central, Edison and Clovis West as Nos. 1-4 as section power remains firmly in the north.

Kern County hasn't delivered a boys D-I champion since Bakersfield defeated Clovis West in 2003.

Since, Bullard has literally raced past Clovis West and Clovis East -- which combined for six D-I titles from 2004-10 -- as the section's elite boys program.

The move has been authored by Amundsen, who is 95-35 with two consecutive section crowns in five seasons with the Knights, including a 32-4 mark, Southern California Regional runner-up finish and final No. 9 state ranking by Cal-Hi Sports last season.

Cal-Hi responded with a not-so-flattering No. 33 preseason ranking for Bullard a month ago.

But the Knights blew the doors off that treatment by defeating Salesian-Richmond -- ranked No. 2 in the state and No. 8 nationally -- 60-54 for the championship of the Gridley Invitational Dec. 8 behind tournament Most Valuable Player Corey Silverstrom.

"That tournament was unbelievable," Amundsen says. "Anytime you knock off the No. 8 team in the country, you've got to feel pretty good about that."

He lost three prominent seniors off last year's team in Bee All-Star Aaric Armstead, Brad Thakham and Walter Orr. But, consistent with his past two section title runs, Amundsen continues to attack fullcourt with a 10-player rotation.

The Knights have no true center but, besides 5-foot-9 returning point guard Chris Russell (8.0 points, 6.0 assists), they balance good height, featuring the 6-5 Silverstrom (21.0-point average), 6-4 Calvin Young (18.7 points, 11.7 rebounds), 6-4 Adam Armstead (8.0 points, 4.3 rebounds), 6-5 James Girado and 6-3 Jarred Morrill.

"We have 10 seniors, a veteran group, so I knew we'd make good decisions," Amundsen says. "Defensively, we're doing a great job."

Bullard will next play Wednesday against Selma at 8 p.m. at Hoover in the first round of the four-day Holiday Invitational Tournament.

In the opposite bracket are Central and Edison, which are Nos. 2-3 in The Bee's rankings.

Parrish keeps the faith

Hanford coach Parrish, typically expressive, says: "I think we'd beat Ridgeview by the end of the year."

The Bullpups won't have the chance because the Wolf Pack will compete in the D-II playoffs after winning D-III last year.

Regardless, Parrish, while acknowledging Ridgeview's talent, Stanford-bound center Erica McCall and the Wolf Pack's superior physical shape, points to three factors that have been troubling for the Bullpups:

-- Bayli McClard, a 6-1 multiple position player and Bee 2012 Player of the Year headed for Gonzaga, is just now approaching full health after breaking a foot in the summer.

-- Guard Gabby Gomez, who underwent knee reconstruction in April after suffering an ACL tear, is playing, but far from in top form.

-- Parrish has yet to find the answer in replacing Bee All-Star Kayla Luis, the only graduated starter from last year.

"Our whole goal is to win league (West Yosemite), win the Valley and go as far as we can in state -- nothing has changed," Parrish says. "We're still finding our chemistry, what will be best for the team. We'll be a lot better in the middle of January and February."

Parrish says he does anticipate improved D-I competition, noting Clovis West, Bullard, Clovis and Stockdale in particular: "D-I is going to be a tough one, I think."

Hanford will play Modesto Christian on Saturday at 2 p.m. at St. Mary's College before competing next week in the top division of the 300-school West Coast Jamboree at Deer Valley High in Antioch.


The Top 10's

Boys

1. Bullard 3-0

2. Central 5-0

3. Edison 8-1

4. Clovis West 3-3

5. Liberty-Bakersfield 8-5

6. Independence 11-1

7. Stockdale 8-0

8. Mission Oak 3-0

9. Bakersfield 8-1

10. Tulare 5-2

Defending Central Section champions: Bullard (D-I), Memorial (D-II), Ridgeview (D-III), Central Valley Christian (D-IV), Fresno Christian (D-V)

2012-13 key dates: Central Section playoffs, Feb. 20, 22, 27 and March 1-2 finals at Selland Arena; SoCal Regional, March 6, 9, 12, 16; State finals, March 22-23

Girls

1. Ridgeview 8-1

2. Hanford 6-2

3. Clovis West 3-2

4. Bullard 7-2

5. Clovis 8-4

6. Stockdale 5-3

7. Garces 9-0

8. Redwood 8-1

9. Edison 4-4

10. Centennial 6-2

Defending Central Section champions: Hanford (D-I), Monache (D-II), Independence (D-III), Memorial (D-IV), Central Valley Christian (D-V)

2012-13 key dates: Central Section playoffs, Feb. 19, 21, 26 and March 1-2 finals at Selland Arena; SoCal Regional, March 6, 9, 12, 16; State finals, March 22-23

The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6366, aboogaard@fresnobee.com or @beepreps on Twitter.

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