Clovis West's Bre'yanna Sanders and Danae Marquez are The Bee's co-Girls Basketball Players of the Year
CO-PLAYERS OF THE YEAR
School: Clovis West
Position: Point guard
She’s qualified because: No one player from the Golden Eagles’ program had a greater impact on the past three seasons as it soared from unbeatable Tri-River Athletic Conference team, to one without match in the Central Section, to one with relevance in the state to, ultimately, the elite team of the nation’s most powerful state in girls basketball. A fearless facilitator, leader, outstanding perimeter and free-throw shooter and defender – all at 5-feet, 4 inches – she was a four-year varsity player and three-year starter for Clovis West teams that went 117-15 overall, including 34-2 this season, and 40-0 in the TRAC with four consecutive section Division I titles and the pinnacle – the CIF State Open Division title at Sacramento’s Golden 1 Center a month ago. The Golden Eagles, as the highest achievement of all in section girls basketball – if not any section team, regardless of gender or sport – finished top-ranked nationally by ESPN and were Cal-Hi Sports State Team of the Year. She finished with 979 career points and more than 400 assists.
Most memorable free throws of all: Marquez, also The Bee’s Player of the Year as a junior, has long supported, with remarkable success, her simplistic stance on free throws: “They’re free – you can’t miss them.” She made 4 of 4 in the final 12 seconds to help top-seeded Clovis West escape, 68-61, against No. 8 Troy-Fullerton in the quarterfinals of the Southern California Open Division Regional. Eight days later, she was 6 for 6 in a 53-44 conquest of five-time state champion Long Beach Poly for the regional championship at Walter Pyramid at Long Beach State. Then the two most historical, with 5.4 seconds remaining and securing a 44-40 win over six-time state queen Archbishop Mitty-San Jose for the state Open Division title, her only free-throw attempts of the night and in the face of a euphoric Eagles student body behind the north basket.
Reality, San Jose State-bound player says: “I probably will not make any more meaningful free throws just because I’ve got to be realistic and probably won’t be playing for a national championship (in college). Those are the two biggest free throws I’ll ever shoot.”
From the CEO: “So many colleges get caught up in the measurables; so many want a 5-9 or bigger point guard. There are a lot of people who are going to regret not going after Danae. I don’t care what the height is; can you play? You can’t measure heart and intangibles, those leadership qualities, that mental toughness. And, while tremendously skilled, Danae has those intangibles to take her to the next level. She’s a winner.” – Clovis West coach Craig Campbell.
School: Clovis West
She’s qualified because: For all of the odds against the Eagles winning 89 percent of their games in her four years – 94 percent this season while conquering multiple nationally ranked teams – they did so sans a true center. Meaning, the 5-foot-11 Sanders made it happen while banging inside, regardless of foe, such as Long Beach Poly’s USC-bound 6-4 Ayanna Clark, whom she dominated in two wins this season. She scored 25 in a 70-67 win over Poly in December at Honolulu and outrebounded Clark 12-3 in a 53-44 victory at Long Beach State for the Southern California Open Division Regional title.
Turning point: Sanders, signed with Arizona State, rescued Clovis West in arguably the turning point of its season – a 62-58 homecourt win over Central on Jan. 18. The Eagles had been throttled, 70-46, by Centennial-Las Vegas at the MLK Showcase in Stockton two days earlier. And then, having gone 108-3 with 41 straight wins in the TRAC in 12 seasons, they found themselves down eight late in the third quarter and by five early in the fourth to Central a year after beating the Grizzlies by 51 and 55. Sanders took over in the final minutes with three steals, a layup and clinching free throw to close a 24-point performance. “It was super scary, I can’t lie,” she said that night. Clovis West would crush Buchanan 83-33 two nights later and finish with an 18-game winning streak as McDonald’s All-American Game nominee Sanders finished with 1,258 career points and nearly 1,000 rebounds. Her four steals against Mitty in the state final were critical.
From the CEO: “Bre has always been a tremendous defensive player with great instincts. What’s taken her game, personally, and our team, to the next level was her offensive skill development. As a freshman, we didn’t want her to shoot anything but a 4-footer. By her senior year, she was making 25 points and three 3’s against Poly and a McDonald’s All-American (Clark) who didn’t come out and guard her. Now she’s going to the Pac-12, the best conference in the country. ASU is a very defensive-oriented program and they also like the upside of where Bre’s offensive game has gone. That’s where she’s turned the corner.” – Clovis West coach Craig Campbell
OUTSTANDING OFFENSIVE PLAYER
Position: Point guard
She’s qualified because: There was a recent day when Bee Players of the Year Brooke Johnson, Bayli McClard, Madison Parrish and Shawntinice Polk – particularly the last three – were complemented with Bee All-Star depth. Not so with Sumilong, while inviting her partnership and double-teaming defense with Bee All-Star junior Kate McClard this season and the past two. Sumilong will have her college education check cleared by Nevada after departing the Bullpups with 2,301 career points, sixth-best in section history. She averaged 22.3 points, 4.6 assists and 4.3 assists this season for the Bullpups, who went 22-9 overall and 12-0 in the West Yosemite League. They went 92-28 overall and 46-2 with four league titles in her career.
OUTSTANDING DEFENSIVE PLAYER
School: Clovis West
Next: UC Santa Barbara
She’s qualified because: Ironically, what may be lost forever in her defensive skills will be her 11 consecutive points, reversing a 37-30 deficit to Archbishop Mitty-San Jose to a 41-37 lead and, ultimately, a 44-40 win for the CIF State Open Division championship at Sacramento’s Golden 1 Center. She was the Golden Eagles’ best on-ball defender for a team that gave up an average of 38 points in the postseason.
From the CEO: “People look at steals and stats and don’t take enough pride in what did your kid do against me. We held three All-Americans as a team to season lows. And what Sarah brought, as an elite defender, was, first, mental toughness, and, second, a little swag. Defensive kids have to love defense and she flourished at that. She had a competitive swagger that, ‘I’m going to break your spirit tonight.’ When she saw blood in the water, she put the kill on.” – Clovis West coach Craig Campbell
OUTSTANDING SMALL-DIVISION PLAYER OF THE YEAR
School: Sierra Pacific
She’s qualified because: The most all-around player on a 29-5 team that won the Central Section Division IV title and reached the Southern Regional D-IV semifinals in the program’s sixth year without a senior. She made all three of her shots – all 3-pointers – and delivered nine rebounds and four assists in a 60-46 win over Strathmore for the section championship at Selland Arena. She averaged 11.1 points, 5.0 rebounds, 4.4 assists and 1.7 steals.
From the CEO: “She was a great team captain. She came into her junior season focused, having worked all summer on her shot. She became an offensive threat while, defensively, making us a difference on the court” – Sierra Pacific coach Amy Bush
COACH OF THE YEAR
School: Clovis West
He’s qualified because: A frequent flier to this platform, he arrives more distinguished than ever after the 34-2 Golden Eagles defeated Archbishop Mitty-San Jose 44-40 for the CIF State Open Division championship at Sacramento’s Golden 1 Center and finished top-ranked nationally by ESPN. Winning the Open Division is generally considered the crowning achievement for girls basketball nationally because it combines 16 of the best teams, regardless of enrollment or division, in a state with nearly 1,600 schools. Cal-Hi Sports named him State Coach of the Year and Clovis West the State Team of the Year. Campbell is 298-73 (.803) with eight Central Section Division I titles and 12 Tri-River Athletic Conference championships in 12 years at the school. He’s 538-176 (.754) overall, including 11 years at Reno High, where he won eight section crowns and a state title. Now it’s a matter of how long can the Eagles hang onto Campbell, and that appears secure for at least two more seasons while his daughter, national-recruit Madison, completes her career at the school.
There was doubt, not long ago: In the first four years of the CIF’s Open Division competition, from 2013-16, three were won by private schools (Bishop O’Dowd-Oakland, St. Mary’s-Stockton and Chaminade-West Hills) and the fourth by Long Beach Poly, which has 5,000 students. A concept enormously competitive and imperfect had Clovis West elevated into the Open Division in 2014 and ’15, when the Eagles didn’t belong, Campbell says. That resulted in losses of 69-40 to Etiwanda and 79-40 to Chaminade in seasons in which they likely could have competed for state D-I titles. “I’m thinking, ‘We can’t compete at this level.’”
But wait a minute or year or so: A deflating picture shifted considerably when the Eagles, again returning to the Open Division, routed Sierra Canyon-Chatsworth 82-55 and went toe-to-toe with Long Beach Poly in a 53-44 loss in the 2016 Southern California Regional. “We turned the corner,” Campbell says. And then the booster blast – a 15-1 start this season against a nonleague schedule that featured nine games against eight national-class teams who went a combined 219-28, including state titles by St. John’s-Washington D.C., Centennial-Las Vegas and Miami Country Day. Clovis West beat them all while leaping atop USA TODAY’s national computer rankings.
The final word: “All season long, we didn’t talk state championship. The goal was to win league, get to Valley, not stumble and set the best path we could for the state playoffs. It was really about setting the best path for state and once that started happening, the girls started to believe. This was a tremendous, tremendous run that validates the hard work and what a special program Clovis West is.” – Campbell
SMALL-DIVISION COACH OF THE YEAR
School: Sierra Pacific
She’s qualified because: Led the Golden Bears to a 29-5 record, the Central Section Division IV title and into the Southern D-IV Regional semifinals in her second season as coach. Further, the former UCLA and Gonzaga player did this with six juniors and three freshmen. Balance was the key for Hanford’s newest high school as Sierra Pacific had six players average 7.6 to 11.1 points. After going 23-6 and reaching the section D-IV semis last year, the Bears are likely headed for a D-III promotion.
From the CEO: I’m extremely excited about next year. We have great players who are fundamentally strong, unselfish and dedicated.” – Bush
The Bee’s Pretty 30 Girls Basketball All-Stars
Jaiden Jones, Buchanan
Shay Gibbons, Bullard
Felisha Ramirez, Caruthers
Ramani Parker, Central
Imani Lacy, Central
Taylor Pilot, Clovis North
Tess Amundsen, Clovis West
Megan Anderson, Clovis West
Madison Campbell, Clovis West
Rachel Berry, Clovis
Serena Ybarra, Coalinga
Kate McClard, Hanford
Krystale Gutierrez, Immanuel
Breana Hurt, Kerman
Katelyn Cole, Lemoore
Alyssa Burton, Madera
Ashley Hansen, Madera
Lucy Parks, Memorial
Jada Shakoor, Memorial
Emily Mendoza, McLane
Kristen Berry, Minarets
Rhegan Fernandez, Mission Oak
Kambrayia Elzy, Mission Oak
Samantha Navarro, Redwood
Vanessa Hernandez, Sanger
Hailey Leslie Sierra Pacific
Celeste Lewis, Sierra Pacific
Mariah Hernandez, Strathmore
Zavia Barlow, Washington
Grace Fries, Yosemite