Clovis West High’s girls basketball team is returning to Selland Arena in top flight.
And that’s a frightening proposition for the opponent, Edison, that will face the Golden Eagles there Saturday at 6 p.m. for the Central Section Division I title.
“All our great teams got better in late February and early March, and this group is getting better,” Clovis West coach Craig Campbell said after his top-seeded and 28-3 team crushed No. 4 Clovis 69-32 in a Wednesday night semifinal on the Eagles’ floor.
Clovis West, the three-year reigning D-I champion, has won 15 straight in a season in which it has outscored the opposition by an average of 36.9 points.
No opponent has played the Eagles within 10 points since Cardinal Newman-Santa Rosa lost 57-48 to them at the St. Mary’s-Stockton MLK Shootout on Jan. 18.
Clovis West has only lost to the nation’s consensus No. 1 St. Mary’s (twice) and to an Arizona large-school state champion, Hamilton-Chandler.
The Eagles, who already had swept Clovis 68-40 and 62-27 while going 10-0 in the Tri-River Athletic Conference, received 17 points from Sarah Bates, 11 from Megan Anderson and 10 from freshman Madison Campbell, made 10 three-pointers and tripled the Cougars in rebounds in earning yet another return ticket to Selland.
So has Edison (27-3), which lost 48-36 to the Eagles in last year’s D-I final.
The second-seeded Tigers, who pulled away late for a 74-58 home-court win over No. 3 Hanford in the other D-I semifinal, feature UNLV signee Rodjanae Wade, a 6-foot-2 center.
“People don’t realize how hard it is to go to D-I and get your school paid for,” Craig Campbell said. “I read recently where only 1.1 percent of high school girls basketball players in the country get D-I scholarships. And (Wade) had multiple offers. She’s a talent, she has a lot of help and they’re well-coached. They’re a complete team.”
Among Edison’s multiple challenges will be Clovis West’s considerable depth. And that’s a definite factor at Selland, whose 94-foot court is 10 feet longer than the traditional high school floor.
“We’re used to that floor, to that style,” Campbell said. “Ten feet doesn’t seem like much but when you’re making 80 to 90 trips, it adds up. It’s amazing. Kids are huffing and puffing a lot earlier than usual.”
Clovis didn’t show fatigue under first-year coach Greg Clark on Wednesday night, but, nonetheless, it was 38-9 Eagles and over with three minutes remaining in the first half.
“They’re a great team, well-coached, and they play their butts off,” said Clark, who came from River City-West Sacramento, where he ran the boys program. “Most important thing to me is that my kids keep fighting and playing hard. We’re trying to build a program like (Campbell’s), but it’s going to take some time.”
And patience, especially when trying to narrow the gap with Clovis West, whose seven of its top nine players are juniors or freshmen.
Danae Marquez, arguably the section’s premier point guard, and Bates, who made three three-pointers, are among the juniors and returning Bee All-Stars.
“We had a walking start at the beginning of the year,” Bates said, “but now we’re clicking and I’m really excited.”
The Eagles’ superb ball distribution, keyed by Marquez and Bates in the backcourt, overwhelmed Clovis’ zone defense.
“Coach Campbell does a really good job of working on zone sets in practice,” Bates said. “We have offenses for everything; we have like 20 offenses. And it’s nice to have girls inside who can post up and shooters (outside) as well, so we’re difficult to guard.”
A roundup of other semifinals:
Division I – Jerrene Carter scored 18 points and Wade added 15 as Edison defeated Hanford.
Division II – Shalay Williams’ layup with two seconds left lifted No. 5 Bakersfield to a 42-41 upset of top-seeded Redwood.
Madison Kast scored 23 points to lead the Rangers, who were the only No. 1 seed that failed to reach Selland.
Williams finished with 13 for the Drillers, who will be part of an all-Bakersfield final when they face second-seeded and defending champion Independence at 6 p.m. Friday. The Falcons beat No. 3 Lemoore 43-21.
Division III – Tristen Myers’ putback with 1:27 left gave top-seeded Mission Oak the lead for good and the reigning champions held on for a 79-76 victory over No. 5 Sanger, which missed a potential overtime-forcing three-pointer in the closing seconds.
Myers finished with 23 points and 17 rebounds.
The Hawks will defend the title against No. 3 Madera at 2 p.m. Saturday. The Coyotes upset No. 2 Exeter 56-45.
Division IV – Zoe March scored 20 points to lead top-seeded Immanuel past No. 4 Sierra Pacific 69-42 and set up a rematch of last season’s division final.
The Eagles will face No. 2 Orosi, a 55-50 winner over No. 3 Kingsburg, at 10 a.m. Saturday.
Then second-seeded Immanuel beat No. 1 Orosi 44-32 for the title last season.
Division V – Jaque Magana scored 10 points to help second-seeded Caruthers return to the final with a 45-24 victory over No. 3 Minarets.
The Blue Raiders will face No. 1 Memorial at 2 p.m. Friday in search of their second straight section title.
Caruthers beat Bakersfield Christian 60-34 in last season’s final.