When Edison High commits a traveling violation Wednesday night in a County/Metro Athletic Conference girls basketball game at Bullard, Tigers coach Bill Engel leaps out of his chair in disgust and stomps his right dress shoe on the court.
His voice raised and white polo shirt half untucked, he has a bit of a disheveled appearance, the look of one who maybe just finished a back alley scrape.
Score: Edison 56, Bullard 12 – with 6 minutes, 18 seconds remaining in the third quarter.
Final: Edison 80, Bullard 23.
Edison’s final CMAC record: 10-0.
Edison’s overall record: 25-3.
Edison’s unquestioned slot in the Central Section Division I seedings to be announced Friday: No. 2.
Clovis West’s unquestioned slot: No. 1.
And this is what it’s all about.
This explains Engel’s intensity in a game clearly destined Wednesday for a running clock (meaning: 40-plus lead in the fourth quarter) not long after the opening tip.
This is what it’s all about for Engel, who has won a combined seven section boys and girls basketball titles in 12 seasons at Edison.
It’s all about preparing for a finals rematch with Clovis West – 26-3 and ranked 12th in the state by Cal-Hi Sports – at 6 p.m. March 5 at Selland Arena.
No illusion. It would be great, wouldn’t it? I think it would be better than the boys games. Hopefully, we’ll get there and, if we do, we’ll battle them. We’ll come to play.
Edison girls basketball coach Bill Engel on his team pointing to a Division I final rematch with Clovis West
“No illusion,” Engel says. “It would be great, wouldn’t it? I think it would be better than the boys games. Hopefully, we’ll get there and, if we do, we’ll battle them. We’ll come to play.”
Should a repeat duel come to fruition, both teams will return the majority of the impact players who participated in last year’s final won 48-36 by Clovis West – the Golden Eagles’ third straight D-I title and sixth in nine years under coach Craig Campbell.
He, too, has long pointed to an Edison sequel.
Asked two weeks ago how many times he had seen Edison this season: “Eight – five live and three on tape.”
And he’s probably seen the Tigers since.
With all respect to the Hanfords and Garceses of section girls basketball lore, it’s difficult not to look past the playoff preliminaries, which begin Wednesday, and to Selland.
Clovis West went 10-0 in the Tri-River Athletic Conference while outscoring the opposition by 46.9 points.
Edison went 10-0 in the CMAC with an average margin of 49.8.
To beat the Golden Eagles is to beat their trapping press.
And, generally, no one can from the section.
Edison committed 28 turnovers against Clovis West last year at Selland. The Tigers were physically spent in the fourth quarter, when they were outscored 13-6.
28 Edison turnovers in a 48-36 D-I championship loss to Clovis West last year at Selland Arena
“They are a machine,” Engel says. “They are well coached and disciplined in what they do.”
His Tigers are quicker and deeper this season, and they clearly have something the Eagles don’t – a true center in Rodjanae Wade.
She’s 6 feet, 2 inches, averages 17 points per game and is heading to UNLV in a close call over Fresno State.
She delivered 12 points, 12 rebounds and four blocks against Clovis West last year, has a four-year point guard to feed her in Liz Randles and a gifted supporting cast that counts guards Jerrene Richardson, Zariah Brown and Malaya Kendrick, and 6-3 freshman center Ramani Parker.
And, yes, Wade is itching for Clovis West, Round II: “I’m so ready, I’m so juiced. Last year, we had a lot of talent; this year, we’re physically all together, we’re better mentally prepared and we’re tougher.”
Wade has significantly upgraded her game in the past year, Engel says: “She missed so many easy baskets last year and didn’t always go hard. She’s knows this is her year; she knows she’s The Man, and she exudes that.”
All good, but – in the impending rematch with Clovis West – Wade will hardly see the ball if the Tigers can’t advance it past half court.
“Can’t beat the trap, can’t get it to her down low,” Engel repeats. “We break it and it’s a different story.”