Clovis News: Sports

Buchanan boys dig deep, topple top-rated Central

The public announcer set the stage before it began at Central High on Friday night: "Welcome to the main event."

Only third-ranked Buchanan arrived for the Tri-River Athletic Conference boys basketball finale with light gloves, right?

No Jackson Carbajal (concussion), one of the Central Section's premier players.

No Lance Orender (discipline), one of the section's better athletes.

"But I think the strength of our team is numbers," Buchanan coach Eric Swain said after a 67-56 conquest of the No. 1 Grizzlies for arguably the Bears' greatest win in their 17-year history.

"Some may argue they have better players, but I think we have more players."

Alex Fertig, a sophomore who plays well beyond his years, delivered 19 points and marvelous court management, and Buchanan (20-6, 8-2) received several outstanding performances from starters and subs alike while tying Central (21-5, 8-2) and Clovis East (23-7, 8-2) for the TRAC title and no doubt positioning itself for the No. 1 seed in the Division I playoffs.

They will be determined today in Porterville.

"I think we deserve it," said Swain, whose team swept the second half of the league -- including an 81-80 win over No. 2 Clovis East on Tuesday -- while earning its first piece of a TRAC title in the 13-year history of the league and also only its second in the program's annals. The other was a co-Northeast Yosemite League crown in 1995.

The Bears, reversing a 79-72 homecourt loss to Central in the league's first round, took the lead late in the first quarter, built it to 16 points early in the second and then outfought a Grizzlies outfit that generally relishes on getting in a scrap.

But, while Central did reduce the margin to as close as three points late in the third quarter, never did it truly find its flow as Buchanan executed its gameplan, as blueprinted by five-year coach Swain: "Try to make them beat us from a distance and control their tempo."

The Grizzlies, feeble against a Bears zone defense, made 1 of 12 3-point attempts in the first half.

Further, a team that generally buries the opposition with depth had only five players score, led by Rakim Brown's 22 and Anthony Trammell's 21.

Central coach Loren LeBeau feared the worse after Thursday's practice, a miserable one and the team's third in a row.

"Get what you deserve," he said afterward Friday.

Brown said: "Coach said it was going to happen to us and, what can you say, Coach LeBeau was right: it happened."

Sam Milhous scored 10 points and Dominique Katter, Nigel Simmons and Kevin Ellsworth combined for 24 off the bench for Buchanan, whose future is bright, given a 23-1 season by its junior varsity as well.

"We have great kids coming," Swan said, "and I think we're going to be here awhile competing for championships."