Midweek high school basketball in the Central Section was about history (times 2) – a Sanger High boys stunner at Memorial and, by golly, a Central girls monumental near-miss in the house least expected: Clovis West.
It was a given Hanford four-year varsity player and Nevada-bound Janelle Sumilong would score the only two points needed at home Wednesday against Mt. Whitney to become the 21st female player in Central Section history to reach 2,000 in a career, according to historian Bob Barnett. And she did quickly before finishing with 22 points, six assists and seven steals in an 86-10 West Yosemite League win over Mt. Whitney.
Similarly, it was anticipated Edison coach T.J. Wilkins would deliver his 300th career win this season – just a matter of when – and that came dramatically in a County/Metro Athletic Conference white-knuckler at Madera South as the Tigers received a rebound bucket at the regulation buzzer by David Alcala to tie it, then the winning layup with 2 seconds remaining in overtime by the junior guard in a 62-60 victory.
In no way, however, were Sanger’s boys expected to prevail against loaded Memorial and all that college-like talent – for sure, not on the Panthers’ home court against a team that was ranked No. 2 overall by The Fresno Bee in the section – but the Apaches won 70-66 in the CMAC. This came four days after Memorial conquered state No. 7 and national No. 13 Sheldon-Sacramento 67-66 as part of Super Saturday at Edison.
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And then, finally, on this same amazing Wednesday night, the Grizzlies of Central – as choreographed by first-year coach Geoffrey Clayton (longtime Tony Amundsen deputy at Bullard and Clovis North) – led by eight points late in the third quarter and by five early in the fourth at Clovis West a year after getting crushed by 51 and 55 points by the Golden Eagles in the Tri-River Athletic Conference.
8 Central lead over Clovis West late in the third quarter
Further, state No. 2 and national No. 8 Clovis West arrived 108-3 in 12 TRAC seasons under coach Craig Campbell and last lost in the league 43-30 to Clovis on Feb. 17, 2012, in a regular season-ending game.
The 16-2 Eagles have won 42 straight in the TRAC since. But only after shutting out Central (12-7) for the final 2:40 and receiving three steals, a layup and a clinching free throw from Bre’yanna Sanders to close a 24-point night.
“They played us really well, they brought their A-game,” Sanders said. “It was super scary, I can’t lie.”
They played us really well, they brought their A game. It was super scary, I can’t lie.
Clovis West’s Bre’yanna Sanders on Central
The 6-foot forward is going to Arizona State as one of five Clovis West players who have signed NCAA Division I scholarships, but the Grizzlies weren’t remotely intimidated on a night they drubbed the Eagles 45-26 in rebounds behind 5-foot-9 sophomore Jayla Green (13 rebounds), 6-foot junior Imani Lacy (11) and 6-3 Edison sophomore transfer Ramani Parker (10).
Green scored 24 points, junior guard Jessica Spencer 13 and Parker 12. Senior point guard Randazia Jones was brilliant on both ends of the court as Central outplayed Clovis West in every phase until the final 3 minutes.
If ever there was a quality loss, this was it, and it buys the Grizzlies a nine-slot promotion to No. 2 behind the Eagles in The Bee’s new rankings.
What happened to them before the first of the year and since are two stories, and each are vital to their growth.
In December, Central lost to six teams that are a combined 83-29 – Hanford (12-7), Elk Grove (15-3), Turlock (14-6), Palisades-Pacific Palisades (14-6), Castro Valley (12-4) and Folsom (16-3).
Then came the arrival of Parker, a major-college prospect who wasn’t eligible until Jan. 2 because of CIF transfer mandates.
With Parker, who helped lead Edison to Selland Arena and a runner-up section D-I finish to Clovis West last season, the Grizzlies opened January with wins over Sierra (67-37) and Ridgeview (46-42) on the road and at home versus Buchanan (62-28) in the TRAC.
In addition to her scoring, rebounding and defense Wednesday night, Parker was key in Central’s routine ability to break the Eagles’ signature press, because Clayton positioned her at midcourt, where she received high passes before advancing the ball.
The Grizzlies also have a college recruit in Lacy.
“With two D-I kids, a bunch of good athletes and a good coach, that’s a recipe for success any time in the Valley,” Campbell said. “They play hard, they battle; they’re a danger.”
42 Consecutive girls basketball wins by Clovis West in the Tri-River Athletic Conference, spanning five years
And it’s all coming together in a hurry for Central under Clayton, who played for a state-winning Fresno City College team under Vance Walberg in 1995. And Walberg was there to shake Clayton’s hand Wednesday night.
“We’re more than capable of making a run,” Clayton said, “but we’re a little bit up and down. We have high expectations, we’re well tested and we can play with anybody. The little things are not there yet, but our culture is improving and that’s what’s keeping us in the game right now.”
For Clovis West, the red flags are flapping mightily.
The Eagles slipped from No. 1 to No. 2 in Cal-Hi Sports’ state rankings and from No. 2 to No. 8 in the CBS MaxPreps national rankings after a 70-46 loss to nationally ranked Centennial-Las Vegas on Monday in Stockton. This came four weeks after Clovis West defeated the Bulldogs 57-42 in Arizona. The Eagles remain No. 1 nationally in the USA Today Sports Computer Rankings, but they haven’t been updated this week.
It was at the Nike Tournament of Champions – about as quality of a prep tournament as you’ll find in the land – that the Eagles defeated four nationally ranked teams by an average of 15 points.
And it was there that Clovis West guard Madison Campbell – coming off an All-State Freshman and Bee All-Star season – was named National Bracket Most Valuable Player. She made her first six 3-point attempts in a 67-45 championship win over nationally ranked Miami Country Day, which is 22-1. Within an hour of that game’s finish, Campbell had scholarship offers from Arizona and Washington.
The coach’s daughter, however, fractured the middle finger on her right hand in the final minutes against Centennial-Las Vegas, didn’t play against Central and is out indefinitely. Her absence was glaring on a night the Eagles never established offensive rhythm – the Grizzlies’ man-to-man defense being largely responsible. Clovis West made only three 3-pointers, nine under its season average.
“I have to wear two hats as a dad and coach, and be smart,” Craig Campbell said. “We hope she won’t be out for more than a week. She’ll play through the pain once it subsides a little more. There’s a lot of things she can contribute without shooting the basketball. But we expect her to shoot, play defense and dribble.”
Sumilong closing in style – Hanford’s Sumilong, a four-year starting guard, has signed with Nevada.
“She’ll be a terrific scoring guard for Nevada over the next four years,” Bullpups coach Doug Pitkin said. “Surpassing 2,000 points in a career is an extraordinary accomplishment, one pursued by many but reached by few. Sacrifice, diligence, commitment, purpose – these are necessary to achieve greatness at any level, and these are the attributes she espoused.”
Wilkins credits players – Wilkins is 300-174 in 16 years at Kingsburg, Lemoore and Edison. He won consecutive D-I titles at Edison in 2014-15.
“I never scored a point in any of those wins,” he said following the thriller at Madera South. “I’m very blessed to have had the opportunity to coach such fine young men. All congrats to the great players that myself and assistants have had the privilege of coaching.”
The Tigers play at Bullard at 6:30 p.m. Friday in a key CMAC game. Edison and Sanger are tied atop the league at 2-0.
Clovis West 62, Central 58
C (12-7, 1-1): Jessica Spencer 13, Randazia Jones 3, Imani Lacy 6, Ramani Parker 12, Jayla Green 24.
CW (16-2): Danae Marquez 6, Sarah Bates 15, Champney Pulliam 7, Bre’yanna Sanders 24, Tess Amundsen 10.
- 1. Clovis North (TRAC, 13-6)
- 2. Clovis West (TRAC, 18-2)
- 3. Ridgeview (SYL, 11-2)
- 4. Bakersfield (SWYL, 11-10)
- 5. Central (TRAC, 9-6)
- 6. Liberty-Bakersfield (SWYL, 16-5)
- 7. Sanger (CMAC, 13-4)
- 8. Edison (CMAC, 9-10)
- 9. Memorial (CMAC, 14-5)
- 10. Selma (CSL, 17-4)
- 11. Immanuel (CSL, 9-7)
- 12. Buchanan (TRAC, 15-5)
- 13. Clovis East (TRAC, 14-6)
- 14. West (SYL, 14-4)
- 15. Independence (SYL, 15-5)
- Division I: 1. Clovis North, 2. Clovis West, 3. Bakersfield
- D-II: 1. Ridgeview, 2. Memorial, 3. Independence
- D-III: 1. Sanger, 2. Selma, 3. West
- D-IV: 1. Immanuel, 2. Madera South (14-5), 3. Kerman (13-7)
- D-V: 1. California City (14-2), 2. Strathmore (13-7), 3. Dos Palos (9-7)
- 1. Clovis West (TRAC, 16-2)
- 2. Central (TRAC, 12-7)
- 3. Clovis (TRAC, 19-2)
- 4. Clovis North (TRAC, 11-8)
- 5. Independence (SYL, 17-3)
- 6. Mission Oak (EYL, 14-6)
- 7. Bakersfield (SWYL, 13-3)
- 8. Ridgeview (SYL, 15-5)
- 9. Hanford (WYL, 12-7)
- 10. Monache (EYL, 16-4)
- 11. Stockdale (SWYL, 16-4)
- 12. Golden Valley (SYL, 16-4)
- 13. Strathmore (E. Sequoia, 18-3)
- 14. Sierra Pacific (E. Sequoia, 15-4)
- 15. Buchanan (TRAC, 13-7)
- D-I: 1. Clovis West, 2. Central, 3. Clovis
- D-II: 1. Independence, 2. Bakersfield, 3. Monache
- D-III: 1. Mission Oak, 2. Golden Valley (16-4), 3. Madera (14-6)
- D-IV: 1. Strathmore, 2. Sierra Pacific, 3. Orosi (13-5)
- D-V: 1. Memorial (16-4), 2. Kern Valley (10-5), 3. Bakersfield Christian (10-7)