Clovis West High took its girls basketball dynasty to another level Saturday.
Without any returning starters from a year ago and using a nucleus of sophomores, second-seeded Clovis West seized its third straight Central Section crown with a 48-36 victory against No. 4 Edison in the Division I championship at Selland Arena.
The Golden Eagles (25-4), under the guidance of Craig Campbell, have won six section titles in the past nine seasons. It is the 15th championship in team history.
“This is the improbable one,” a relieved looking Campbell said afterward. “To lose our starting five — four to a graduation, one to an ACL — (and) start four sophomores, we knew we had a pretty good team but we were kind of were building for next year.
Never miss a local story.
“The season kept plugging along and we’re seeing these girls grow by leaps and bounds. All of the sudden about mid-league, we realized we had a shot.”
Though they trailed 10-4 after one quarter, the Golden Eagles eventually began to wear down the Tigers with their unrelenting full-court pressure and trapping. Constant substitutions helped Clovis West maintain a high energy level.
Edison did lead 16-13 at halftime, but the continuous pressure proved too much in the second half — the fourth quarter in particular as the Tigers mustered just six points.
Clovis West forced Edison into 28 turnovers.
“We ran out of gas,” Edison coach Bill Engel said. “We’re not deep on the bench. Our movement through the first half in the zone was just phenomenal. The second half, we had some dead legs and couldn’t get out on their shooters like we did in the first half.
“They pick you up full court, make you expend energy. And then they have great ball movement on offense, which makes us expend more energy. We were pretty tired. It’s a very tough system when you haven’t played against it.”
It’s the system — a combination of the full-court press and half-court trap on defense, complemented by a patient motion offense — that has been a staple in the Golden Eagles’ sectional dominance.
Players are coached in it as early as fourth grade and come close to perfecting it by the time they reach the upper grades at Clovis West. This season, these younger Eagles were ahead of schedule on how to work the system in their favor.
Clovis West has won 12 straight games and by an average of 38.5 points behind a starting unit that has one junior along with the four second-year players.
“We’ve worked so hard to get here,” said one of those sophomores, Danae Marquez, who was named game MVP after scoring a game-high 12 points. “Three years is amazing. We all played a bigger part as opposed to last year. This year we had to step up.
“(It was) a little bit more pressure. But I knew we were going to do it. I’ve been playing with these ladies since the fourth grade. It was our time. We've been dreaming of playing and starting at Selland. We knew we had to get it together.”
Edison’s 6-foot-2 junior Rodjanae Wade shared in game-high honors with 12 points and had 12 rebounds and four blocks. Wade, however, committed five of her eight turnovers in the fourth quarter as the Eagles contested nearly her every move.
Clovis West’s Bre’yanna Sanders added 10 points and Sarah Bates nine.
“Every (championship) has their own cherishable moments and favorite memories,” Campbell said. “This is just as very rewarding one. They grew as much as any team we’ve ever had.”