Clovis News: Sports

Clovis East's close call

Top-ranked Clovis East High's basketball team went on the road Thursday night, defeated a three-time reigning Central Section champion and, afterward, sat in the locker room and received a 35-minute lecture by its coaching staff.

"I just don't think we're clicking right now," coach Tim Amundsen said after his Timberwolves had a 16-point lead sliced to four before settling in the fourth quarter and repelling No. 9 Edison 70-62.

Robert Sandoval scored 17 points, Antwoun Whitfield added 16, including two momentum-shifting 3-pointers to open the fourth quarter, and Kevin Bailey made four free throws in the final minute as Clovis East improved to 15-5 against a stiff nonleague schedule heading into Tri-River Athletic Conference play.

And the TRAC, also boasting No. 2 Clovis West, No. 3 Central, No. 6 Buchanan and formerly ranked Clovis, has never been better.

"I think we're going to struggle in league," Amundsen said.

Most coaches, with such a record, ranking and results against some of the best competition the state has to offer, would be tickled.

But such are the standards at Clovis East, the section's winningest program for four years, a section Division I champion in 2007 and '08 and a heartbreak first-round loser to Buchanan last season, when the Timberwolves were top-seeded and seemingly better than the previous two years.

They remain all about pressure, penetration, slashing, 3-point shooting and substitution. Never does any of it cease, but it can lose its effectiveness.

That occurred during a 5-minute stretch in the second quarter, when the Timberwolves went scoreless while missing eight consecutive 3s.

Edison (7-7) -- the defending D-I champion after D-II titles in 2007 and '08 -- had a lot to do with the drought.

With 6-foot-10 sophomore Robert Upshaw blocking seven shots, and 6-7 Steve McClellan another four, the Tigers packed a tight zone defense and dared the Timberwolves to dial long distance.

"They took good angles and didn't foul on the block; they did a very good job," Amundsen said of Edison's big men. "The must have blocked 10 shots at the rim, and that's 20 points right there."

Ultimately, however, Clovis East's accuracy -- and momentum -- returned.

Whitfield sank the two 3s and Sandoval added another in the first 21/2 minutes of the fourth quarter as a 50-46 advantage was extended to 59-49, and the Timberwolves kept control.

A layup and rebound basket by McClellan reduced the gap to 63-57 before Bailey made his four consecutive free throws to secure the decision.

Clovis East will open the TRAC on Tuesday at home against Clovis before visiting Central next Friday.

"I just wasn't happy with our pressure and how we flew around the court," said Amundsen, whose team did force 31 turnovers. "We did it in spurts, but this team has not done it consistently this year; that's where we're behind."

Upshaw and McClellan each finished with 16 points, in addition to 13 and 12 rebounds for Edison, which will begin County/Metro Athletic Conference play Tuesday at Clovis North.

Two days later comes No. 7 Bullard, a definite threat to the Tigers' CMAC domination, which includes three consecutive unbeaten seasons.