The Central Section Division II boys basketball championship Friday at Selland Arena will be remembered mostly as the night Clovis North High won its first championship with its first senior class.
Or will it?
No doubt the Broncos' 43-33 victory over Tulare will be better remembered in Tulare County – if not the entire Valley – as the night No. 11 crumbled to the court in pain, his right ankle possibly broken with 1 minute and 35 seconds remaining in the first quarter.
And when Redskins junior guard William Stallworth left for good, he took with him 23 points a game and the life out of a 26-1 team averaging 65.3 points coming in.
"They played their hearts out, but I wish I was out there playing with them," Stallworth said in tears afterward in the locker room.
With a healthy Stallworth?: "Got to feel pretty good about our chances, absolutely," said coach Mark Hatton, whose Redskins had won 15 straight and were seeking their third section title and first since 1998.
Without a healthy Stallworth?: "It allowed us to extend our defensive pressure and do things differently," said Clovis North coach Rob Streeter.
In a ragged game that saw his Broncos shoot 32.5% (13 for 40) and the Redskins 26.7% (12 for 45), it came down to grit, a street fight. And Clovis North was just mean enough with a group that didn't remotely match up with Tulare in physical stature.
"People questioned our toughness all year," said Streeter, whose team went 4-6 in the otherwise all-Division I Tri-River Athletic Conference. "Well, here it is, we held them to 33 points."
He then applauded Ethan Lenox and Zach Boman for holding Tulare's 6-6 tandem of Keonta Vernon and David Love to a total of 19 points – 10 under their combined average. They made only 7 of 22 shots.
"Vernon's a beast, and I thought Lenox did a good job keeping him at bay," Streeter said. "And Zach was nails. He harassed Love all night and wore him down."
The Broncos (at home) and the Redskins (on the road) advance next to the Southern California Regional next week. Pairings will be determined Sunday.
Clovis North led 22-20 when it received its most uplifting shot of the night – a 3-pointer by Richie Tesmer midway through the third quarter.
The Broncos had missed their first six attempts behind the arc to that point. The relief was obvious as Tesmer pounded his chest with his right fist while retreating on defense.
Further, the 3 was followed by another by Huffman – completing a sequence that began with one of his four offensive rebounds – for a 28-20 lead.
Not done, Ishaq Farsakh scored on a drive and Boman added a free throw for a 31-20 lead with 2:40 remaining in the quarter, and the Broncos would sustain the momentum to the wire before about 4,500 fans – a record Friday-night crowd in the seventh running of the two-day event at Selland.
The Redskins went 3:30 without scoring before Vernon's rebound bucket with 2:35 to go in the third.
Disaster struck early for Tulare when sophomore Vernon, with his 13.6 points and 13.0 rebounds averages, left the game with 5:21 remaining in the first quarter with two fouls.
He returned in the second quarter.
Then it got worse – so much worse – when Stallworth collapsed alone under the basket, clutching the ankle after he said he was pushed while defending Tesmer.
The Redskins led 12-11 at the time. And they would hold on for an 18-17 halftime lead despite the setbacks and horrendous shooting, 7 for 22 (31.8%).
Fortunately for them, the Broncos were colder, shooting 23.5% in the half.