It’s only fitting the best team in the history of the Central Section’s best girls basketball program will play for a state championship Saturday night at Sacramento’s Golden 1 Center.
But there’s a caveat for 33-2 Clovis West: The same probably also could be said for its opponent, Archbishop Mitty-San Jose (28-2).
And consider the magnitude of that entering the 6 p.m. game for the title of the now five-year Open Division tournament, the nation’s elite, that begins with the state’s top 16, regardless of enrollment.
The Monarchs are 638-123 (.838) with 19 Central Coast Section championships and six state crowns in 24 seasons under Team USA Juniors-established coach Sue Phillips.
For Mitty, a private school in the heart of the Silicon Valley, and with a tuition of $19,000, the state championships came in Division I (1999), D-II (2007, ’08, ’12, ’15) and D-III (’95). A seventh would break a tie with three others and elevate Mitty solely into third all-time in the state behind Brea Olinda (10) and St. Mary’s (eight).
Only Hanford (2001, D-II) and Woodlake (1985, D-III) among Central Section teams have won a state title in girls competition that began in 1981. The section has won seven in boys state tournaments launched in 1916 – Washington with four (1985, D-II; ’88, D-IV; ’96, D-IV; ’99, D-III), Dinuba (1927, one division played), Foothill (’88, D-II) and East Bakersfield (’94, D-II) one each.
We’re playing well, and we’re also playing a team that is playing well. It’s a great matchup.
Archbishop Mitty coach Sue Phillips
Phillips and Craig Campbell – 538-176 (.753) in 23 seasons at Reno High and Clovis West – hesitate to rank their strongest teams, which is typical of accomplished coaches. And this comes three months after Mitty defeated the Golden Eagles 76-75 in overtime for the championship of the Nike Iolani Classic in Honolulu in a duel of teams with nine seniors headed for major colleges to say nothing of younger players surely to follow.
But Campbell doesn’t deny this being the standard-bearer of a 265-71, 12-year Clovis West career after beating perennial power Long Beach Poly for the second time this season, 53-44, Saturday for the Southern California Open Division title at Long Beach State’s Walter Pyramid: “This team’s pretty darn good.”
Phillips stops just short of saying she’s never had better, though the 1986 Mitty graduate does allow this team can be distinguished from her others: “I’ve had no team with greater versatility. We have multiple kids who play (multiple positions). And, with that, has allowed latitude with different looks defensively and afforded us the freedom on the offensive end to pound inside, score in transition or off defense. That’s what makes this group unique; the talent is off the charts.”
She has four college-bound seniors, featuring Madeline Holland (Saint Mary’s), who, at 5-11 plays every position but center. Holland was the San Jose Mercury News Player of the Year as a junior.
Then there’s her finest of all, 6-1 sophomore Haley Jones, the team’s leading scorer (15.4) and rebounder (8.1) and a probable future McDonald’s All-American, predicts Campbell.
Holland and Jones were dominant in the semifinals and finals of the Northern California Open Regional as the Monarchs crushed St. Mary’s-Stockton 78-61 in an expected showdown-turned-personal showcase and then Cardinal Newman-Santa Rosa 78-54.
Holland delivered 24 points, 10 rebounds and six assists against St. Mary’s and 20 points and nine rebounds against Cardinal Newman; Jones had 12 points, 10 rebounds and four assists in the first one and 15 points, eight rebounds, eight assists and three steals in the second.
“We’re playing well, and we’re also playing a team that is playing well,” says Phillips. “It’s a great matchup.”
Statistics support her in a duel that will unfold in a fashionable new venue that houses the NBA’s Sacramento Kings. And that means the floor’s length will be 10 feet longer than the high school’s standard 84.
The Monarchs have won by an average 29.5 points in a 22-game winning streak; the Eagles by an average of 38.7 in an 18-game run.
Clovis West, similar to Mitty, has five seniors signed with D-I programs, including center Bre’yanna Sanders (Arizona State), who scored 18 against Mitty, was named tournament Most Outstanding Player in Honolulu and upstaged Poly 6-4 All-American Ayanna Clark and was named the Eagles’ Player of the Game in Long Beach.
The Eagles have a sophomore in Madison Campbell, the coach’s daughter, who’s a national recruit.
116-15 Four-year record (.885) of Clovis West seniors Bre’yanna Sanders, Danae Marquez, Megan Anderson and Sarah Bates. This season’s team is 33-2
It will be the 132nd and final game Sanders, Danae Marquez (San Jose State), Megan Anderson (San Jose State) and Sarah Bates (UC Santa Barbara) will play together in four-year prep careers that have produced a 116-15 record (.885) with four section and four Tri-River Athletic Conference (40-0) titles.
“And what a way to go out, as teenage kids playing on an NBA court for a state championship,” Craig Campbell says. “One game will not reflect on our season as a failure or a success. At worst, we lose, we’re No. 2 in a state of 1,500 tremendous high schools and probably among the top five in the country; at best, we’re Open Division state champions. We’ve had a remarkable year, regardless of the outcome.”
What a way to go out, as teenage kids playing on an NBA court for a state championship.
Clovis West coach Craig Campbell
Marquez, The Bee’s Player of the Year as a junior, says: “Our last week of practice, kind of crazy. But we maximized our season. Think about it, we’ve been in playoffs for over a month now and we’re still going. It’s all excitement, no pressure. To be able to compete for a state championship is a privilege for us. We knew four months ago we had a good shot at it and now that’s tangible. To be able to compete at this level, especially as a public school against one of the most powerful private schools around, we’re just excited to be here.”
Phillips says throw out the Round I result in Hawaii: “That game means nothing, really. It would be really hard to watch film and game-plan based on that game. I think it would be a mistake on both parts. We’re both not entirely different teams, but we’ve both evolved in so many different ways.”
Among human polls, the Monarchs and Eagles are Nos. 5 and 7 in MaxPreps’ Xcellent 25 National Rankings.
Campbell doesn’t endorse one poll over another, but he does stand behind this: The profound benefits of the Eagles having nine wins over teams ranked nationally among the top 15.
And, specifically, the foundation of where they stand today going back to December, when they placed second to Mitty on the rock before conquering consecutive nationally ranked foes in St. John’s-Washington D.C., Centennial-Las Vegas, St. Mary’s and Miami Country Day for the elite division title of the Nike Tournament of Champions in Arizona.
“What we’ve done validated a tremendous December,” Campbell says. “And the December schedule was set to build the best path to get here. The girls have a feel of accomplishment; they feel very good about themselves right now.”