Clovis News: Sports

Central Section hoops teams earn respect, tough tests

Southern California Regional basketball seedings involving Central Section representatives ran the gamut Sunday, ranging from a trio of top 3 seeds to 12 teams hosting first-round games to Buchanan High's boys opposing the No. 1-ranked team in the land.

The Bears (22-7) -- runners-up to Clovis East for the section Division I title and the last of 16 SoCal Regional D-I seeds -- will travel Tuesday to play Mater Dei-Santa Ana (29-1) of the Southern Section.

That's a quantum leap for Buchanan, which went winless in the Tri-River Athletic Conference in coach Eric Swain's first two years, in 2006 and '07: "The program is now playing in games that mean something."

For the Bears, the SoCal Regional will be a novel experience. But for several others in the section, it will be the latest in a series of postseason play at this level. And, in general, it's been a rough go, tangling with SoCal powers.

That history typically has resulted in unflattering seeds, such as a No. 10 for Clovis East's boys (26-7), who will host No. 7 Santa Monica (24-7) of the Southern Section.

"We've just got to start beating those teams," said coach Tim Amundsen, whose Timberwolves have six losses -- most closely contested -- against state tournament teams this season.

Overall, however, the section's stock appears to be rising, given a No. 2 seed for Clovis West's girls (D-I), 3s to Hanford's girls (D-II) and Central Valley Christian's boys (D-V), and even a 5 to a section runner-up -- Yosemite's girls (D-II).

All four, based on favorable matchups, are in position to host 7 p.m. games Tuesday and Thursday, setting up likely road semifinals Saturday.

"Obviously, the comforts of playing at home are huge," Clovis West coach Craig Campbell said.

The Golden Eagles (24-4), who blasted Stockdale 66-38 for the section title, will host Taft-Woodland Hills (16-9), a No. 15 seed from the Southern Section.

"We're ecstatic," said Campbell, who has won two SoCal Regional first-round games in his five-year Eagles career.

Clovis West is seeded behind Long Beach Poly (27-2) and ahead of Santa Monica (25-6) -- both from the mighty Southern Section.

"We're very pleased to be 2," Campbell said. "But we're also realistic. There are 392 D-I teams in the state and 16 are remaining. Everybody is very good at this point."

Hanford's girls (28-3), the most prolific 3-point shooting team in state history, were seeded as expected behind No. 1 Brea Olinda-Brea (30-2) and No. 2 Mater Dei-Santa Ana (28-1) -- both of the Southern Section and also ranked Nos. 2-3 in Cal-Hi Sports' overall top 20.

The Bullpups will play No. 14 Ventura (25-5) of the Southern Section. A win would probably advance Hanford to a home quarterfinal against No. 6 Woodbridge-Irvine (27-6) of the Southern Section.

Ventura routed Stockdale 74-54 on Dec. 22 in the Santa Barbara Tournament of Champions.

"I think we've got a pretty tough game in Ventura," Bullpups coach Tom Parrish said. "I think they're a better team than their seed."

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