The Central Section Division I boys water polo playoffs will assuredly run through Buchanan High now.
Kaleb Archer, Kyle McKenney and the rest of the Bears made sure of that with a dominating 13-4 victory over rival Clovis on Oct. 20 that secured at least a tie for the Tri-River Athletic Conference title.
Buchanan improved to a TRAC-leading 8-0 and 18-3 overall with the 16-team Memorial Cup tournament Oct. 21-22 and TRAC games Oct. 26 against Clovis East and Nov. 2 against Clovis North left on its regular season schedule.
The nine teams who will make up the field for the section’s Division I playoffs when it begins Nov. 10 includes TRAC schools Clovis, Clovis East, Clovis North and Clovis West, as well as Bullard, defending champion Golden West, Memorial and Tulare. Only Clovis (13-9, 6-2) has a comparable season résumé to Buchanan’s, and the Bears have now beaten the Cougars twice.
“We just played the way we know how,” Archer said. “We came out and we really sent a message going into the playoffs. We knew our game plan and we just went out and played Buchanan water polo.”
We came out and we really sent a message going into the playoffs. We knew our game plan and we just went out and played Buchanan water polo.
Kaleb Archer, who scored six goals in Buchanan’s 13-4 victory over Clovis to clinch at least a tie for the Tri-River Athletic Conference boys water polo title and likely wrap up the No. 1 seed for the Central Section Division I playoffs
Archer scored the first of his game-leading six goals 29 seconds into the game. Archer’s second goal gave the Bears a 5-2 lead to end the first quarter, and his third goal put Buchanan up 7-3 in the third quarter.
Archer closed by scoring three goals in a 2-minute stretch of the fourth quarter than helped the Bears put the game out of reach and improve on a 9-5 victory from when the teams met Sept. 28 during the first round of TRAC play.
“Kaleb is a fantastic player. He’s still just a sophomore and we’re really excited about what he’s doing and how he’s playing,” Buchanan coach Nic Maes said. “He’s a stud on offense. He can really do it all. He’s a high IQ player. He’s been around our program since he was 8 or 9 years old watching the game. He’s a real smart player, a real great athlete. He can put the ball away, and he loves doing it.”
Buchanan also received two goals apiece from Robert Phillips and Cade Berrett, and single goals from Gabe Putnam, Dayne Ruth and Zack Keyshaw while winning its sixth straight game.
“We’re rolling. We’re getting into a hot streak at the right time,” Archer said. “It’s looking good for the playoffs. We’re hungry for it. We want it.”
“We’ve been playing real well in practice and training well and I think you play how you train,” Maes said. “We’ve been really pushing that with our guys. Because of that we came out and we really pushed hard. And offensively, I’ve felt a lot of the year we’ve been a sleeping giant just kind of waiting. This game we definitely woke up and put some goals on the board, and kept our strong defense up.”
After allowing two early goals, the Bears gave up only one more over a nearly 20-minute stretch before emptying their bench late in the fourth quarter. Goaltender McKenney had 10 saves.
Buchanan is aiming for its first section championship since winning back-to-back in 2011-13. The Bears have seven titles overall, second-most in section history behind the 14 won by Clovis West.
“I think this is the team that’s going to do it,” McKenney said. “I’m very proud and very confident in this team. I feel we have the potential to do it.”
Clovis was led by Patrick James McDonough’s three goals.