They have won a combined 55 basketball games, are Central Section champions and Southern California Regional qualifiers.
That’s all good for Clovis West High School’s girls and Lemoore’s boys, and it gets better.
Clovis West had a good idea four months ago, if not for a year, that it would return to the eight-team Open Division with the majority of players who were there previously, several as sophomores.
But this time the 29-3 Golden Eagles are going as No. 2 seeds, which is immensely flattering considering this is the elite division of the deepest region of prep basketball talent in the United States.
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Further, they’ll open Friday at home at 7 p.m. against seventh-seeded Sierra Canyon-Chatsworth (23-7) with maybe the best long-range shooting girls team in section history. Sierra Canyon has won the past three Division IV state titles.
And the 26-3 Lemoore boys have landed a Division II home game against Long Beach Poly, which represents the most glorified overall athletic program in state annals.
Long Beach Poly coming to Lemoore? Who would have thought that would happen?
Lemoore boys basketball coach Joel Sligh
“Long Beach Poly coming to Lemoore?,” asks Tigers coach Joel Sligh. “Who would have thought that would happen?”
In addition to the Jackrabbits’ basketball lineage, athletic family tree and 2005 Sports Illustrated “Sports School of the Century,” this is about Poly and such grads as Cameron Diaz, Snoop Dog and Billie Jean King.
Clovis West and Lemoore aside, it’s a gloomy forecast for section entrants in the regionals.
There are 30 – 15 each in five boys and girls divisions. But 25 of them are seeded 10th or lower. And only three – Edison’s D-I girls in addition to Clovis West’s girls and Lemoore’s boys – were rewarded with home games.
And then there’s the most daunting road assignment of all – section boys D-IV champion Immanuel (25-5), as a No. 8 seed, stuck at national consensus top-ranked Chino Hills (31-0) in a matchup that has drawn statewide rage in regard to the SoCal Regional seeding process. Chino Hills, with three UCLA signees, has scored 100 or more points 16 times and is averaging 96.6 points.
27 Central Section teams, among 30 entrants, playing first-round road games in the Southern Section Regionals
SoCal first-rounders in Divisions I through V are at 7 p.m. Wednesday. Open Division games begin Friday.
The state playoffs, combining North and South winners, will conclude March 24 and 26 at Sleep Train Arena in Sacramento.
Eagles soar from afar – Clovis West coach Craig Campbell is a 504-game winner in 22 seasons split with the Eagles and Reno High (23 average) and has won 74 percent of his games, 15 section championships and a state title (at Reno).
He considers this his best three-point shooting team of all.
Consider the comparative numbers last weekend of the five section girls division championships at Selland Arena: Clovis West made 10 of 17 three-pointers (58.8 percent) in a 69-38 rout of 28-4 Edison for the D-I title; the nine remaining finalists made 20 of 107 (18.7 percent).
Edison made two three-pointers, meaning, 24 of the the Eagles’ 31-point winning margin could be found beyond the 19-foot, 9-inch arc.
“Campbell will tell us if it’s a bad shot,” said Eagles junior guard Sarah Bates, who made 3 of 5 threes and scored 17 points against Edison. “But, usually, if we have an open three, he wants us to take it. If we’re in tempo and hitting, he basically lets us shoot because we’ve proven it.”
That counts practice, and don’t underestimate it.
The first 35 minutes of every Clovis West practice is launched with competitive three-point shooting drills.
“Never just a shoot-around,” Campbell said. “We have timed shooting drills and a winner or loser whether it’s individuals, small groups or teams having to hit a certain goal. Every day they try and make that goal, and then we raise it even higher.”
That routine has been borrowed by some major college programs. And it had an Eagles group of Bates, Megan Anderson, Danae Marquez, Madison Campbell (the coach’s daughter) and Champney Pulliam make 205 three-pointers in five minutes in a workout two weeks ago.
Juniors Anderson (64), Marquez (53) and Bates (48), and freshman Campbell (49) have made the lion’s share of the team’s school-record 239 three-pointers this season.
Madison Campbell, surely a go-to star on most section teams despite her youth, came off the bench and played only 14 of the game’s 32 minutes against Edison. But no questioning her impact: 13 points on 4-of-6 shooting, including 2 of 4 on three-point attempts, four rebounds and a steal.
She’s 5-foot-10 and has already been offered a scholarship by San Jose State: “My teammates have been so welcoming. I couldn’t have done this without them,” she said.
Jackrabbits bounding into Kings County – Lemoore’s boys will oppose a 20-10 Long Beach Poly team of the Southern Section, 6-6 Zafir Williams and his 19.1-point and 13.9-rebounding averages.
Williams and other Jackrabbits will pound it inside against Jaylunn English and Matthew Borba, arguably the Central Section’s best inside tandem.
English (23 points, 10 rebounds) and Borba (nine points, eight rebounds, four blocks) were outstanding in the section D-II final 84-77 win Friday against Ridgeview, which arrived 28-1 and top-seeded. But the difference was the Tigers’ backcourt aggression behind point guard Allen Perryman and Roger Wilson and Reggie Davis.
“They really haven’t had a chance to come down from Friday night,” Sligh said. “They’re excited and Wednesday, they get to play more basketball. It’s a group that has risen to every challenge, from Buchanan to Clovis East and Clovis North and Ridgeview. Every one of those games presented some sort of obstacle, but they never backed down. They compete at a very high level; they really play a game of knockout.”