The strength of Clovis West High's boys basketball team could be found during coach Tom Orlich's timeout Friday night with his team leading top-ranked Central at home by two points and 34.5 seconds remaining.
"We didn't call a play," said junior point guard Michael Orlich, the coach's son. "It was score and get a stop, and that's what we did."
The No. 2 Golden Eagles didn't call a specific play because they hardly needed to with four legitimate impact options on the floor in Orlich, Jakari McClain, Stacey Leggett and Colin DeLaere.
Turned out, this time, it was Orlich scoring on a stop-and-pop 15-foot jumper with 19 seconds remaining in what would finish as a Clovis West 82-76 Tri-River Athletic Conference win before a near-capacity crowd of about 2,000.
Leggett's two free throws with 9.4 seconds to go closed the scoring in the first of what promise to be a combination of showdowns involving the Eagles (13-5, 2-0), Grizzlies (18-4, 1-1) and No. 3 Clovis East (17-5, 2-0) in the league. The TRAC's second tier is represented by Clovis, Buchanan and Clovis North.
"This gets us right in front of the TRAC," said Michael Orlich, who finished with 19 points, six assists and zero turnovers. "It was a big win, but we play them one more time."
That would be Feb. 11 at Central, but it is never a good idea to look too far ahead in the TRAC.
"We have to focus on next week," Michael Orlich said of the team's road games at Buchanan on Tuesday and Clovis East on Friday.
Clearly, though, the Eagles will enter the week nearly at the top of their game — which is new this season.
"They shot the heck out of the ball and defended the post," Central coach Tim Amundsen said. "They played better than I thought they could; I hadn't seen it."
Tom Orlich, a 37-year coach with 807 career wins, agreed: "I was surprised tonight by my team — really surprised. I hadn't seen this in practice or a game, I really hadn't. We had more guys play well together."
McClain was exceptional.
The senior guard made the last of his six 3-pointers with 1:30 remaining, giving Clovis West a 78-74 lead. He finished with 26 points and six rebounds.
McClain, DeLaere and Leggett all had steals, leading to baskets, in the final 3 minutes, when the Eagles spun a 71-69 deficit into victory.
DeLaere contributed 13 points and eight rebounds. Leggett, who tied a school scoring record with 46 points earlier in the season before missing six games with a concussion, had 12 points and six rebounds.
Orlich, Leggett and DeLaere starred for a 28-0 junior varsity team as freshmen two years ago.
And yet more youth emerged for Clovis West on Friday's bright stage in freshmen Adrian Antunez, who starts, and 6-foot-5 forward Walter Graves.
"Everyone contributed," Michael Orlich said. "It was fun; a big win. But there's more big games next week."
Central's 1-2 combination of four-year varsity players Nate Amundsen and Murshid Randle scored 20 and 19 points.
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