Clovis News

Two could be spoilers in basketball playoffs

The numbers 7 and 11 are most commonly associated with dice rolls and a convenience store.

In the Central Section Division I basketball playoffs, they represent talented low seeds playing with an edge.

No. 7? That would be Clovis East's 18-8 girls, who are powered by the section's most feared player in Erikka Banks, a 6-foot senior.

Expected by some to be seeded as high as No. 4, they open at home against No. 10 Bakersfield (13-13) at 7 tonight.

No. 11? That would be Central's 9-16 boys, who remained competitive in the section's strongest league, the Tri-River Athletic Conference, despite having nine players -- including four starters -- dismissed from the team in December because of a discipline issue.

The Grizzlies, who closed the TRAC Friday with a 57-52 win over defending D-I champion Clovis East, will open at 7 p.m. Wednesday against fellow TRAC member and No. 6 Clovis (15-11).

Coach Craig Campbell of Clovis West's second-seeded girls was among those who thought Clovis East had earned a higher seed after the Timberwolves (6-4) placed third behind the Golden Eagles (9-1) and Clovis (8-2) in the TRAC.

Campbell, whose team has a first-round bye, is bracing for Banks and Clovis East in Thursday's quarterfinals after escaping with 63-58 and 69-68 wins over the T'wolves in league play.

And Northern Arizona-bound Banks hung 37 points on Clovis West in that one-point game Feb. 11.

"She's the best athlete in the Valley," Campbell said. "She's long, explosive and very talented in terms of getting to the basket. Clovis East is big, athletic and experienced. They are as dangerous as anybody in the field."

Banks (22.2) is second to Yosemite's Sydnee Fipps (22.9) in section scoring. But that's not what has first-year Clovis East coach Kaitlin Kaufmann applauding.

"You're not going to be a great basketball player if you don't play defense," the 2006 Clovis East graduate said, "and that's where Erikka has really strapped it down. I think that's what makes her a secret weapon more than anything."

Kaufmann said Jasmine Cooper and Andrea Mersino also have improved their defensive games for the T'wolves.

They've never made a D-I final as opposed to their boys, who have won three of the past four D-I titles.

"I kind of expected a higher seed," Kaufmann said. "But, at the same time, I liked the way it worked out and I'm actually kind of happy. I think we're in a pretty good position."

At Central, no one gave the Grizzlies' boys a chance after the mass dismissal in mid-December.

"At first," coach Loren LeBeau said, "I thought: 'Oh, man, we're going to get blown out every night.' "

And, while eventually going but 2-8 in the TRAC, four of Central's losses were by six points or fewer. All five of Central's TRAC opponents finished ranked in The Bee's top 10.

Yet the Grizzlies were a threat as LeBeau developed young forces in freshmen Murshid Randle and Darius Hamilton, and sophomore L.J. Moore.

Not to be ignored has been the bench and locker room presence of Darryl Hardy, a student body president who returned to the program after originally deciding to skip his senior season.

"He's been invaluable, the glue of it all," LeBeau said. "And [Randle, Hamilton and Moore] are going to be special players. They just get it; They realize I'm hard on them but for the betterment of their growth.

"The sky's the limit. The future is very bright."

Soccer playoffs resume today

Top-seeded Buchanan's boys and Bullard's girls remain alive in the soccer playoffs, which continue with semifinals today and tomorrow.

Buchanan's boys, which defeated No. 8 Western 4-0 in the quarterfinals, will play No. 4 Liberty-Bakersfield Wednesday at 3 p.m. in a D-I match.

All other boys and girls soccer matches will be played today.

Bullard's girls, whose 23-3-1 record includes a 20-0 record against section opposition, will play No. 4 Clovis at 4 p.m. at McLane. The Knights have swept the Cougars by 2-0 and 2-1 scores this season. Today's winner will meet either Liberty-Bakersfield or defending D-I champion Buchanan for the title.

A D-I doubleheader at McLane will be completed with Bullard's No. 3 boys opposing No. 10 Clovis West at 6 p.m.

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