Ben Avera, a 6-foot-5 Clovis North High junior who can make a basket in many, many ways, launched a 35-footer at the end of the third quarter, banked it in, retreated, slid on his posterior at midcourt and raised his right forefinger, signaling No. 1.
And now the question for the fifth-ranked Broncos after a 72-34 home-court demolition of No. 8 Buchanan Tuesday night to close the Tri-River Athletic Conference and the regular season: Will that No. 1 represent a Central Section top seed Friday?
“That would be fair to me,” said coach Pat Geil, whose Buchanan team actually arrived on a roll, having defeated No. 4 Central (68-67), No. 10 Clovis East (77-72), No. 11 Clovis West (79-65) and Clovis (50-45) consecutively.
“I’d say there’s a pretty good chance of that,” Geil continued on the thought of the Broncos landing the No. 1 seed. “They are the best team I’ve seen in (D-I). They can spread you out, attack and make threes. They’re a very tough matchup.”
Avera, making four drives, three threes and a free throw, scored 18 points, Jonah Brown had 17, Jahvon Johnson added 14 and Elijah Straughter and Johnson powered a 2-to-1 Clovis North advantage in rebounding as it earned a TRAC title tie with Central.
The Broncos (18-8, 7-3) received help from Clovis East in that department as the No. 10 Timberwolves delivered a 76-64 home-court win over Central (19-6, 7-3).
Seventh-ranked Bakersfield (16-9, 8-1) and No. 9 Centennial (16-12, 8-1), meanwhile, are tied atop the Southwest Yosemite League entering final games Wednesday night. Bakersfield will close at home against Liberty-Bakersfield (16-10, 6-3) while Frontier (11-4, 2-7) goes to Centennial.
Bakersfield and Centennial, in addition to Clovis East (19-9, 6-4), figure to join Clovis North and Central among the top D-I considerations when the section boys and girls seedings in five divisions will be determined Friday morning in the office of commissioner Jim Crichlow.
His committee will concentrate on coaches rankings, overall winning percentage and strength of schedule.
Clovis North has the strongest schedule in the section, as established by MaxPreps.com, has split with Central and defeated Centennial 74-72 in early December.
Boys playoffs will begin next Tuesday, with the D-I championship set for March 5 at 8 p.m. at Selland Arena.
“Sooner the better because we’re playing well,” Avera said. “We’re excited and we want to get rolling again.”
The Broncos were coming off a home-court 76-75 overtime win over Central in a game they trailed by 11 points midway in the fourth quarter and received a three-pointer from Brown with two seconds remaining to force the extra session.
Tuesday? All drama was removed in three minutes.
That’s how long it took Clovis North to bolt to a 13-0 lead as Johnson scored on a scoop, Avera scored six points on a drive, free throw and three, and Brown made a three and two free throws.
It was 19-5 after the first quarter and 36-13 at halftime for a team coached by Tony Amundsen, who won three D-I titles consecutively at Bullard from 2011-13.
“We want to be peaking at the right time, no question,” he said. “We’re playing well, but we have to stay focused on our goals and the standard of play we’ve established, and we want that standard every time we step on the floor.
“We did a great job tonight defensively, that led to a lot of (offensive) opportunities and we capitalized. We’ve got guys to put the ball in the basket and guys willing to make the extra pass, making sure we’re getting the shot we want.”
Buchanan sophomore Spencer Heimerdinger, battling well inside against a strong Clovis North frontline, scored 13 points.
But the Bears’ Donovan Mitchell, a 6-9 senior who has signed with Wake Forrest of the Atlantic Coast Conference, had but one basket, scored 4 points and played half the game.
“He’s a little banged up and also was not feeling too well,” former Memorial coach Geil said. “He’s just having a hard time going 100 percent, so at some point, it’s best to rest him.”