The dynasty that has become Long Beach Poly High girls basketball essentially got its start 14 years ago inside the Clovis West gym.
It was there, on March 7, 2002, that the Jackrabbits earned their first state playoff victory, 75-60 over the Golden Eagles.
Four seasons later, Long Beach Poly would win the first CIF State Championship, launching a run of four straight Division I titles and six overall, including the Open Division in 2014.
The Jackrabbits (26-4) return to Fresno on Tuesday for a Southern California Regional Open Division semifinal against Clovis West (30-3). Tip-off is set for 7 p.m. The winner plays for the regional title at 6 p.m. Saturday at Long Beach State’s The Pyramid arena.
“They are a tremendous challenge,” Golden Eagles coach Craig Campbell said. “Year in and year out, they are not only one of the best teams in the state, but in the nation. We have tremendous respect for Poly.”
Year in and year out, they are not only one of the best teams in the state, but in the nation. We have tremendous respect for Poly.
Clovis West girls basketball coach Craig Campbell
The state’s most decorated girls basketball program over the past decade arrives ranked No. 5 overall by Cal-Hi Sports and has split two games against SoCal Regional Open Division top-seed Chaminade-West Hills. Clovis West is No. 8, including two losses to top-ranked St. Mary’s-Stockton, the No. 1 seed in the Northern California Regional.
Long Beach Poly was seeded third for the regional after losing 72-63 to Chaminade in the Southern Section Open Division final, while Clovis West was rewarded with the No. 2 seed after topping Edison 69-38 for its fourth straight Central Section Division I title.
The Golden Eagles have never reached the state finals.
“I don’t get into all that,” Buggs said of his team’s seeding. “If you are going to make it until the end, you’ve got to play wherever you have to play. I can’t control it, so why worry about it?”
What Buggs will worry about is a Clovis West team that’s made a school-record 247 3-pointers, including eight in an 82-55 victory over state No. 13-ranked Sierra Canyon-Chatsworth in a regional opener March 11.
Danae Marquez (four), Sarah Bates (two), Megan Anderson (one) and Madison Campbell (one) all connected from long range as the Golden Eagles won their 17th straight game.
“They have kids who can shoot the ball very well,” Buggs said. “They get after it and are a very disciplined team.”
They have kids who can shoot the ball very well. They get after it and are a very disciplined team.
Poly coach Carl Buggs on Clovis West
Clovis West will have to contend with the Jackrabbits’ decided size advantage inside, led by 6-foot-3 Ayanna Clark and 6-1 Jasmine Jones.
Clark, a USC commit, averages 13.5 points, 9.6 rebounds and 1.8 blocks a game, while Jones contributes 14.5 points and 8.3 rebounds.
“We match up in a lot of areas with them, but (Clark is) one we don’t have,” said Campbell, whose team lost 68-53 to Poly in the 2010 D-I regional final. “She’s one area of concern because she’s so glaringly different to us. If we can protect the paint, we’ve got a shot. If she has a field day, we’re going to struggle.”
This is Clovis West’s third appearance in the SoCal Regional Open Division tournament.
The Golden Eagles were blown out 69-40 by Etiwanda in the first round during their first trip in 2014, then won their opener 53-50 over Alemany-Mission Hills in 2015 before losing 79-40 to Chaminade.
“Each year, we’ve taken another step,” Campbell said. “If we take one more step as a program, it would be tremendous. To be one of eight teams remaining right now is a great accomplishment for our kids. Hopefully we come out and match up and give our best to get to one more round.”