Clovis News: Sports

Banks leads Clovis East girls in hoops opener

The Clovis East High girls basketball team laid out a blueprint Tuesday night for what it will take to keep advancing in the Division I playoffs.

Erikka Banks, the 6-foot senior headed to Northern Arizona, did her thing dropping 27 points on visiting Bakersfield in a 76-55 opening-round victory.

But it's going to take more than a typical Banks big night for the seventh-seeded Timberwolves to bring down No. 2 Clovis West when they hook up Thursday in the quarterfinals in the Golden Eagles' gym.

"Everyone has to contribute, a whole team effort," said Banks, who had 12 rebounds, three blocks and three steals against the No. 10 Drillers.

That's exactly how it played out against Bakersfield.

Jasmine Cooper contributed 12 points and eight rebounds, Andrea Mersino had 12 points, Kim Pree another 12 and Nina Gregory 11 with five rebounds.

Clovis East knocked down 10 3-pointers -- four by Pree and three each by Mersino and Gregory -- and shot 51% overall from the field. The defense forced the Drillers into 20 turnovers and took high-scoring Keairra White out of the game early.

White hit her average of 20 points, but she only had four at halftime and made just 8 of 38 shots total.

Clovis West has beaten the Timberwolves twice this season: 63-58 at home and 69-68 on Feb. 11 at Clovis East despite a 37-point effort from Banks, who averages 22.2 points but is scoring at a 31-point clip over her past four games.

Timberwolves first-year coach Kaitlin Kaufmann, a former standout at Clovis East and Fresno City, this week made sure to impress upon her team the urgency of playing together in the playoffs.

"I told them the playoffs are an interesting creature," she said. "You work so hard to get somewhere, then it can disappear so fast. They're realizing they each have a role and can contribute."

Banks had 10 points and eight rebounds by halftime, but she also played the role of Great Distributor. Whenever she was double-teamed -- which was often -- she smartly flipped the ball out to an open player on the wing.

Pree and Mersino both hit three 3-pointers and Gregory two, as Clovis East scored 27 points in the first quarter and led 40-26 at the half.

"We know we can't become dependent on Erikka," Gregory said. "They can try to stop her, but we've got four other people who can score."

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