How did the Clovis West High girls basketball team celebrate its recent record-shattering victory?
By getting disparaged back home.
“A lot of people are taking shots at us and our character based on a final score,” Golden Eagles coach Craig Campbell said by phone from Huntington Beach.
The Clovis West girls have won three straight Central Section titles under Campbell, and six over the past nine seasons. Yet none of those accomplishments garnered the same attention, much of it visceral and negative, as a final score from a preseason tournament played 250 miles away:
“Not sure what this coach is trying to prove,” one Facebook commentator wrote.
“Low-class basketball being played at Clovis West,” wrote another.
“Embarrassing lack of sportsmanship,” wrote a third. “Clovis West should be ashamed!”
When the final score crossed my computer screen Sunday evening, I grimaced, too. There is nothing sporting about one basketball team pulverizing another by a section-record 105 points.
We never have nor will we ever intentionally rub someone’s nose in it.
Clovis West girls basketball coach Craig Campbell
Except all blowouts are not created equal. There’s a vast difference between a coach who mercilessly runs up the score and one who takes every measure not to – short of ordering his players to pass the ball around each possession until the 30-second shot clock expires.
Which would make the game even more of a farce than it already was.
“We weren’t trying to get 100,” Campbell insisted. “We weren’t trying to get a record. It was nothing to celebrate at all. It almost feels like an emotional hangover as opposed to something you’re happy about.”
Well before the opening tip, the difference between the two teams was evident. While Clovis West arrived at the gym 1 1/2 hours early, Rivera didn’t show up until just before warm-ups. In addition the Huskies, in the views of Campbell and one other observer, did not appear to be taking the game with the utmost seriousness.
“They were laughing and goofing off the whole time,” Campbell said. “It seemed like horseplay to them.”
(I left two phone messages with Rivera coach Shamekka Higgins that were not returned.)
The Golden Eagles began the game in their trademark full-court press. Campbell called it off midway through the first quarter “when it became clear they were not going to be able to advance the ball past midcourt.”
By the time the first quarter ended, Clovis West led 42-3 and 11 Golden Eagles had entered the game. By halftime, with the score 74-3, that number included all 14 players on the roster. No starter played more than 13 minutes.
Those are the games when you’re cheering for the other team to score.
Clovis West spent the entire second and third quarters in a soft zone defense. In the fourth, Campbell switched to man to man and instructed his players not to guard outside the three-point line.
In California high school girls basketball, games with a 40-point differential entering the fourth quarter are played with a running clock. The team on the losing end has the option to ask for one earlier. Rivera never did.
“We never have nor will we ever intentionally rub someone’s nose in it,” Campbell said. “But this was one of those games where it could have been a 200-point win – had we wanted that.”
Lopsided scores in high school girls basketball are nothing new.
In 2010, former Hanford coach Tom Parrish caught some flak for allowing his team to launch 70 three-pointers during a 117-31 thrashing of Mt. Whitney.
More recently, the coach of an Arroyo Valley-San Bernardino team that won 161-2 (and pressed the entire first half) was suspended two games by his administration.
Despite the enormous advancements in girls’ high school sports, parity remains a long ways off. Besides 114-9, Clovis West (ranked No. 13 in preseason by Cal-Hi Sports) has won this season by scores of 101-9, 62-15 and 84-20.
Rivera, meanwhile, one day after getting clobbered by the Golden Eagles, lost 67-7.
“The final score doesn’t reflect the disparity in talent between the two teams or the way the game was played,” Campbell said. “It’s the difference between a team with eight (future) college players and one that lost the next night by 60 points to a 2-6 team.”
I suspect a lot of the vitriol directed at the Golden Eagles came from fans of other high schools that don’t like Clovis West because they win so much.
I suspect a lot of the vitriol directed at the Golden Eagles came from fans and alumni of other high schools that don’t like Clovis West because they win so much. Success often breeds jealousy and contempt.
I also suspect those detractors wish Clovis West would get a taste of its own medicine.
Oh, wait. They have.
Two years ago, when most of the nucleus of this Golden Eagles team were freshmen playing junior varsity, they lost by 80 points to powerhouse St. Mary’s-Albany.
“We didn’t cry about it, and we didn’t make excuses,” Campbell said. “Instead, we used it as motivation to get better.”
On one hand, 105-point wins are nothing to brag about. On the other, Clovis West has no reason to apologize.