Tony Amundsen is going back where Kern County has never been – the Central Section basketball feature at Selland Arena.
Three seasons after closing a string of three consecutive boys Division I titles at Bullard, he’ll go this time with top-seeded Clovis North, which had Jahvon Johnson score its final eight points in a 69-63 home-court win over No. 4 Centennial on Tuesday night.
The Golden Hawks (18-13) received 30 points, 14 rebounds and seven blocks from a senior man-child, Malcolm Johnson, in a determined attempt give Kern County its first D-I boys representation since the two-day, 10-game finals were moved to Selland in 2005.
It was then that Clovis West defeated Clovis 60-53 in the first of 11 straight Fresno County duels that has translated into a revenue boon for the section and participating schools.
And another is surely in order at 8 p.m. Saturday, when Clovis North (20-8) and second-seeded Central (21-6) will clash for the third time this season.
They shared the Tri-River Athletic Conference championship with 7-3 records after splitting in league thrillers – the Grizzlies winning 62-60 at home Jan. 26 and the Broncos escaping 76-75 in overtime at home Feb. 12.
Clovis North senior guard Jonah Brown’s three-pointer with two seconds left in regulation sent that one to OT in a game the Broncos trailed by 11 points midway through the fourth quarter.
Now the burning question: Will Brown play Saturday after spraining his right ankle and leaving Tuesday’s game for good in the third quarter?
One of the section’s elite perimeter shooters, he said afterward he expects to play, but he was clearly hobbling.
Not in question is the momentum Clovis North will carry to Selland.
The OT conquest of Central launched a run that has seen the Broncos torch Buchanan 73-34 in a TRAC finale that finished with a running clock and then throttle No. 9 Bullard 83-46 in the D-I quarterfinals.
“I think these guys are confident and believe in themselves,” said Amundsen, in his third season at Clovis North. “Just because we’ll be in a big arena I don’t think will change anything. I always love seeing kids celebrate, and they’re all excited. But I’ll have to remind them we have one more. Hopefully, we’ll get it done.”
Ben Avera and Elijah Straughter each scored 14 points and Brown had 11 for Clovis North, which is seeking its first D-I title. The Broncos won a D-II crown in 2011.
Central, likewise, is pursuing its first D-I championship. The Grizzlies won D-III titles in 1993 and ’96, according to historian Bob Barnett. They lost a D-I final to Edison 66-65 on a last-second shot at Selland in 2009.
Centennial, meanwhile, was denied again a year after losing to eventual champion Edison 51-49 in the semis.
The Hawks this season lost 74-72 at Clovis North on Dec. 5 in a game Malcolm Johnson didn’t play while recovering from an ankle injury. He has committed to Division II Cal State Dominguez Hills.
When asked to explain the Kern County drought, Hawks coach Hernan Santiago said: “Gosh dang it, how close can we get? We were two points away last time and now six. We’re not there.”
Centennial, a Southwest Yosemite League champion stuck with the controversial No. 4 seed behind TRAC members Clovis North, Central and Clovis East, trailed the Broncos by 16 points in the third quarter and 14 early in the fourth after Azaad Brar – stepping in for Brown – scored his only points of the night on a three-pointer from the right baseline.
“I thought it would be a grind-it-out game, and that’s what it was,” Santiago said. “I was proud of our guys for not giving up when the score got big. Clovis North is a great program and I wish them well.”
Division I Chris Seeley scored 23 points and Jaylon Johnson added 16 as No. 2 Central downed No. 3 Clovis East 66-54 to advance to the final at 8 p.m. Saturday.
Brandon Recek’s 15 points paced the Timberwolves.
Division II No. 1 Ridgeview advanced to Selland for the first time since 2012 with a 77-61 victory over reigning division runner-up No. 4 Mission Oak.
The Wolf Pack will face No. 2 Lemoore in the final at 8 p.m. Friday after the Tigers raced past No. 3 Memorial 70-60.
Division III Top-seeded Roosevelt has reached Selland for the second time in three seasons after edging No. 4 Porterville 76-72 in overtime.
The Rough Riders, who lost to rival Fresno in the 2014 final, will face No. 3 Selma at 4 p.m. Saturday.
The Bears advanced with a 70-65 defeat of No. 2 West.
Division IV Behind 19 points apiece from Colin Slater and Darrin Person, top-seeded Immanuel rolled past No. 12 Kingsburg 70-37.
The Eagles will play in their third straight section final at noon Saturday against No. 11 Taft, which beat No. 15 Orosi 87-55.
Immanuel won the D-IV title last season and D-V in 2014.
Division V Top-seeded Kern Valley qualified for its third straight trip to Selland with a 65-57 defeat of No. 5 Riverdale.
The Broncs, who have lost in the D-V final the past two seasons, will face No. 14 Fresno Christian at 4 p.m. Friday.
The Eagles became an unlikely finalist with a 51-43 victory over No. 10 Strathmore during a postseason journey that also included a 78-69 win over No. 3 Tranquillity and a 70-68 victory against No. 6 Liberty-Madera Ranchos.
No. 1 Clovis North vs. No. 2 Central, 8 p.m.
No. 1 Ridgeview vs. No. 2 Lemoore, 8 p.m.
No. 1 Roosevelt vs. No. 3 Selma, 4 p.m.
No. 1 Immanuel vs. No. 11 Taft, Noon
No. 1 Kern Valley vs. No. 14 Fresno Christian, 4 p.m.