Clovis News: Sports

Clovis West boys overcome player losses

Tom Orlich lost his starting point guard before the season began, his powerful post man two games into the season and, today, the Clovis West High boys basketball coach is absolutely chipper.

"Winning does a lot to determine your attitude," he said.

That would suggest Orlich has been in a pretty good mood for a 33-year career, though his intense courtside, black-suited manner doesn't always agree.

He does, however, rank seventh in the state with 704 career wins, the first 521 compiled in 25 years at South Lake Tahoe High.

But it's the past 10 straight in a 12-2 season that have been particularly pleasing to Orlich, whose team has vaulted to No. 16 in Cal-Hi Sports' state rankings. And Friday's nonleague finale against Hoover will be only the Golden Eagles' second game at home.

"It's been real satisfying considering the change of personnel the past six months," he said.

Misfortune began in the summer when junior-to-be point guard Jesse Clayton tore an anterior cruciate ligament in his knee.

"He's getting close to coming back," Orlich said, "but, to be on the safe side, we might keep him out for the year."

Then Carlton Hayes, a 6-foot-6, 240-pound junior center, was dismissed from the team for the season for undisclosed disciplinary reasons after scoring a team-high 19 points in a 58-49 win over Huntington Beach at the Tournament of Champions in Southern California on Dec. 9.

Enter Nicos Natsues and Jason Ritchey.

They weren't new to the program, but their roles intensified following the personnel losses.

Natsues has flourished at point guard, highlighted by the tournament MVP award of the Santa Barbara Holiday Classic, which the Eagles won.

The 6-5 Ritchey, now the big man of essentially a five-guard offense, is averaging 24 points and 9.6 rebounds per game.

He was named tournament MVP of the St. Hope Classic after scoring 40 points to lift Clovis West past host Sacramento 75-74 in overtime for that title. Sacramento, whose starting guards will go to Arizona State and Rice, was No. 8 in the state.

"I've coached 950 games and have had two other kids score 40, but never in a game so close," Orlich said. "That's really tough to do when they are keying on you. Jason's pretty versatile. He's just a tough match for teams."

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