It was a game worthy of Selland Arena in early March and a duel of teams that likely will be seeded Nos. 1-2 for the Central Section Division I boys basketball playoffs.
It involved host Clovis North and Central. And who knows? Maybe the Broncos and Grizzlies will collide one final time for the D-I title at 8 p.m. March 5 at Selland.
Interestingly, for all the theater Friday night in a Tri-River Athletic Conference game in which section fifth-ranked Clovis North trailed No. 4 Central by 11 midway through the fourth quarter, forced overtime on Jonah Brown’s three-pointer with two seconds left and won 76-75 on Jahvon Johnson’s free throw with 1.5 seconds to play, the bottom-line impact is questionable.
11 Clovis North’s deficit to Central with 4:16 remaining
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Central (19-5, 7-2), which missed its final three free throws in the last minute of regulation, can do no worse than a TRAC title share and has another chance to win outright Tuesday at No. 8 Clovis East (18-9, 5-4) to close the regular season.
The Timberwolves were in position to earn a slice before losing 69-68 at Clovis West on Friday on a buzzer beater by sophomore Adrian Martinez, a quarterback who earlier received a football scholarship offer from Fresno State.
Clovis North (17-8, 6-3) will finish at home against No. 7 Buchanan (14-13, 5-4), the league’s hottest team with a four-game winning streak.
Playoff seedings for boys and girls in five divisions will follow Saturday.
The chase for the boys D-I title – won for the past five years by County/Metro Athletic Conference schools Edison (two) and Bullard (three) – appears as wide open as a sliding glass door in the spring.
Central and Clovis North are in line to land the Nos. 1-2 seeds for the Central Section Division I playoffs
Key to the seedings equation is one score in particular: Clovis North 74, Centennial 72 on Dec. 5 at the Valley Children’s Hospital Tip-Off Invitational at Clovis North. Head-to-head results are a priority for the seeding committee.
Centennial (16-12, 8-1) and Bakersfield (16-9, 8-1) are tied atop the Southwest Yosemite League, and that’s where additional D-I high seeds figure to be drawn in a year in which Edison and Bullard were swept by D-II Memorial in the CMAC.
“Our goal, our expectation from the beginning of the year has been to get to Selland and win the Valley, definitely,” said Clovis North coach Tony Amundsen, who knows the feeling. He won D-I championships at Selland with Bullard from 2011 to 2013.
On Friday night – at home, no less – the Broncos hardly looked like a section champion, trailing Central 66-55 with 4:16 remaining in regulation.
I was kind of out of control, but it felt good when I released it.
Clovis North’s Jonah Brown on game-tying 3-pointer with 2 seconds left in fourth quarter
But Clovis North closed the quarter with an 18-7 run as Johnson scored eight points and Brown made two three-pointers in the final minute, including the one launched from the right elbow at the 2.0 mark.
Brown, a senior guard, had missed the previous two games with a sprained right ankle. Then he hurt his left one but showed no sign of discomfort as he fired in the clutch on a play designed for him.
9 Boys basketball league championships in Central history
“I was kind of out of control,” Brown said, “but it felt good when I released it.”
Brown made three three-pointers in the fourth quarter, finishing with 12 points.
Ben Avera, a long, lean 6-foot-5 junior, scored from afar and close for 26, Johnson finished with 21, and Elijah Straughter blocked three shots in the OT alone for the Broncos, who lost 62-60 in the first round at Central.
0 Boys basketball section championships in Central history
The Grizzlies received 23 points from 6-foot-8 Chris Seeley, 22 from sophomore Cam’ron Wilson, superb ball distribution from junior point guard Jaylon Johnson and flashes of brilliance from yet another super soph, Cash Williams.
But in overtime, Seeley fouled out early and Jaylon Johnson late for Central, playing under its third coach in three years in former Edison standout Greg Streets.
This is the ninth league title in program history, according to historian Bob Barnett. And two were delivered by Tony Amundsen in 2003-04.
The Grizzlies are pursuing their first D-I section crown. They won D-III titles, according to Barnett, in 1993 under coach Fred Langley and 1996 under Kent Albertson.