Clovis News: Sports

Buchanan boys hoops topples No. 1 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 before a turnaway crowd of 2,400 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.

"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 complementary efforts 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 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 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 three points late in the third quarter, never did it truly find its flow as Buchanan executed its game plan, 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 a miserable week of practice: "Get what you deserve."

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

"I think we're going to be here awhile competing for championships," Swain said.

It's encouraging, indeed, with two more years in store from Fertig, who didn't blink in the bright lights: "I've always played with guys two grades older. Pressure does nothing to me. We're definitely playing our best basketball right now."