Clovis News: Sports

Golden Eagles take on D-I girls power Poly

They are ranked fifth nationally, have won four straight state Division I championships and taxi players into major colleges.

They have talent, tradition, tireless work ethic and, oh by the way, a public magnet school with the state's largest enrollment (5,000).

Simply, there's never a good time to oppose Long Beach Poly High in girls basketball.

What the Jackrabbits don't need is extra incentive. And yet they have exactly that entering today's Southern California Regional D-I championship against Clovis West at USC's Galen Center.

"This team could create history," said coach Carl Buggs, whose 30-2 team is seeking to become the first girls program to win five consecutive state titles. The Jackrabbits are tied with four others with four straight.

Tonight's winner will play the NorCal champion -- Berkeley or Oak Ridge-El Dorado Hills -- next Saturday for the state title at Bakersfield's Rabobank Arena.

The SoCal's top-seeded Poly is considered a prohibitive favorite against second-seeded Clovis West (27-4), the Central Section champion, which has beaten Taft-Woodland Hills 84-53, San Diego 65-59 and Santa Monica 61-57 in the regional.

The Jackrabbits, conversely, haven't been pushed while beating Washington Prep-Los Angeles 71-27, Stockdale 81-50 and Summit-Fontana 80-53.

Buggs, in his 11th year as the school's coach, isn't concerned, given that large carrot that is dangling from Rabobank's rafters.

"When you have something like this laid out in front of you, that's motivation in itself," he said. "So I don't think we'll have a problem getting motivated for Clovis West."

The Eagles, who twice lost at home to Poly in SoCal regionals early in the decade, actually have as many players (four) who have made college commitments to play basketball as the Jackrabbits.

For Clovis West, they are center Janae Coffee (Long Beach State), forward Se'nyce Parrish (Sacramento State), injured forward Natalie Butler (UC Irvine) and point guard Brianna Orlich (Columbia), whose stirring 39-point, 13-rebound performance rallied the Eagles past Santa Monica.

For Poly, they are guards Ashlee Johnson (Colorado) and Brittany Wilson (Colorado), forward Ta'nitra Boyd (UNLV) and center Thaddesia Southall (USC).

The difference is depth as Buggs substitutes like a hockey team -- line after line. And he is particularly deep up front, evident in the fact junior Sheila Boykin is his best post player.

Clovis West responded well last Saturday to coach Craig Campbell's instructions to play zone for the first time this season.

He did so out of concern for matchup problems, something that will only be magnified against the Jackrabbits.

Following the recent graduations of McDonald's All-Americans Monique Oliver (Rutgers) and Jasmine Dixon (UCLA), Poly now is more about balance than superstars.

Remarkably, the Jackrabbits have not one player averaging 10 points or more.

"But I'd like to think we have five or six kids who are able to put up 20 on any particular night," Buggs said. "When you try to figure out who to stop, it's hard."

After losing at Clovis West two weeks ago, Taft-Woodland Hills coach Mark Drucker accurately predicted the Eagles' intelligence would advance them to tonight's final: "All of their girls have basketball IQ."

Clearly, the Eagles will have to bring their "A" game to the Galen Center to have a shot against Poly, which has won 22 straight. Clovis West, gunning for its first regional title, has won 19 in a row.

"What's hard," Campbell said, "some of these real athletic SoCal teams you can outdiscipline and outwork, but Poly's disciplined and they work hard.

"Poly's Poly -- they expect to be here. But our kids have really improved in the past two months. Anything can happen in one game."