Check another box on the historical résumé that the Clovis West High girls basketball team is building this season.
In a marquee matchup for the Southern California Regional Open Division championship, the Eagles beat Long Beach Poly 53-44 Saturday night at Walter Pyramid on the campus of Long Beach State.
It sends Clovis West to its first girls state championship, against Archbishop Mitty-San Jose on March 25 in Sacramento.
The Eagles became the section’s first top-division regional girls basketball champion while improving to 33-2, second only to Yosemite (35-3, 2006) for single-season wins in section annals, in a revised review by historian Bob Barnett.
He did confirm that Clovis West (845-257 in 40 years) has the section’s most wins all-time after defeating a nation top 15-ranked team for the eighth time this season.
Surely that strength of schedule is what has propelled the Eagles to No. 1 nationally by USA Today Sports Computer rankings and No. 2 in the state by Cal-Hi Sports. Poly was ranked third in the state by Cal-Hi and 11th in the USA Today rankings. The Eagles were the regional top seed; Poly, the Southern Section Open Division titlist, was No. 2.
“To be the best you have to beat the best, and I don’t know if there’s a more decorated team than Poly in our state,” Clovis West coach Craig Campbell said.
Clovis West was mauled, 18-7, in offensive rebounds and committed 21 turnovers to a Jackrabbits team that utilized superior size and speed by trapping defensively baseline-to-baseline and at virtually every opportunity.
“It was a war,” said Campbell.
Poly commits 23 fouls
That aggression, however, led to a statistical discrepancy rarely seen at this level of competition in a matchup of nationally ranked teams.
The 27-4 Jackrabbits committed 23 fouls – including a disqualifying five by 6-foot-4 All-American center Ayanna Clark with 1:34 remaining. The Eagles – arguably the best and deepest shooting team in section history – took flight with the opportunity, making 28 of 35 free throws (.800) compared with Poly’s 3 of 11 (.273).
At the Clovis West line, Sarah Bates was 7 of 9, Danae Marquez 6 of 6, Megan Anderson 5 of 5, Tess Amundsen 5 of 6 and Madison Campbell 4 of 7.
Marquez and Amundsen each made two free throws in the final 24 seconds to secure the win.
Clark, signed by USC and one of eight major-college signees in the game, including Clovis West’s five, finished with five points and three rebounds while playing 21:54 of the 32-minute game.
“They made the key shots, they made the free throws, and that was it,” said coach Carl Buggs of Poly, which has won seven SoCal Regional titles, including a 68-53 Division I decision over Clovis West in 2010 at USC’s Galen Center.
The Jackrabbits are five-time state champions.
Mitty matchup awaits
The Eagles will seek their first state crown and only the section’s second (Hanford won D-II in 2001) March 25 at 6 p.m. at Sacramento’s Golden 1 Center.
Awaiting will be Cal-Hi’s No. 1 Archbishop Mitty (28-2), which crushed Cardinal Newman-Santa Rosa 78-54 for the NorCal Open Division title Saturday.
The Monarchs have won 22 straight, including regional routs of Sacred Heart Cathedral Preparatory-San Francisco (92-71) and St. Mary’s-Stockton (78-61).
Yet there’s reason for faith at Clovis West, and not so much for an 18-game winning streak, but a 76-75 overtime loss to Mitty on Dec. 10 for the title of the Nike Iolani Classic in Honolulu.
The day before, at the same site, the Eagles had failed to secure all of a 15-point first-half lead before regrouping in OT for a 70-67 win over Poly.
Closing run against Poly
Saturday, similarly, they closed with a 14-7 run launched by Boise State-bound Amundsen’s off-handed drive and two free throws.
Then, leading 44-41, they toughened in a game that demanded it, outrebounding the Jackrabbits 7-1 in the final 3:30 while making 9 of 10 free throws – four by Bates, the two each by Marquez and Amundsen and another by Campbell.
Bates wanted to start dancing with 6 seconds remaining and the Eagles up 53-44.
“I said to Danae, ‘Look at the clock, we did it,’ ” said Bates. “But she said, ‘No, not yet.’ ”
Six seconds later, the Clovis West bench and fans erupted.
“Their fans maybe outnumbered ours, but ours were louder,” said Craig Campbell, now 298-73 (.803) in 12 years with the Eagles. “The support from our students, community and Valley has been real special.”
Bre’yanna Sanders (Arizona State) finished with 12 rebounds and seven points, and Bates and Anderson 10 points each for Clovis West, which somehow managed a 22-22 tie despite a miserable first half, when it missed 7 of 8 3-pointers, had 12 turnovers and was beaten 11-4 in offensive rebounds.
But the Eagles’ senior savvy would reign with a team that has had Bates (UC Santa Barbara), Anderson (San Jose State), Marquez (San Jose State) and Sanders play varsity for four years.
Coach Campbell said, “We’re looking forward to playing Mitty from the competitive standpoint and, better than that, going to Sacramento for our last game of the season.”