Around the TRAC: Keepin’ it real, on the right side of the TRAC

Contributed Photo

In between multiple trips to the refrigerator for leftover mashed potatoes, pausing our annual family tradition of watching “A Christmas Story” on a 12-hour loop and after almost lighting a church pew on fire from the Christmas Eve candlelight service, I researched and found out that our beloved Clovis area high schools participated in 17 different tournaments these past two weeks. And 17 multiplied by a lot of games = a LOT of games.

Those numbers are the kind of hard-hitting reporting you get here at The Clovis Roundup.

But, as we would no doubt L-O-V-E to cover every single event, we can’t possibly either A) clone ourselves and B) spend 32 hours a day watching, reporting and writing about said beloved Clovis schools. But we sure as heck try, just as hard as that Santa Claus guy does when he delivers all those presents to people. (I had to put in that last part in case my youngest daughter reads it – she’s still a believer).

So, that being said, below is a sample of all the many things going on Around the TRAC.

Buchanan girls basketball plays in special venue 

Pop quiz: What does the Buchanan girls basketball team have in common with the 2015 World Series Champion Kansas City Royals?

Well, two answers actually: Cabrillo High’s alumni Danny Duffy and Buchanan baseball great Jason Donald.

Duffy is a member of the 2015 WS champion Royals and had an idea along with his dad, Cabrillo’s assistant girls basketball coach and head baseball coach Dan, to play a friendly pre-season game against Donald’s alma mater.

Duffy and Donald were minor league teammates and of course, when news hit the airwaves Buchanan girls basketball coach Cooper Steele was all in – especially when the idea was to play at the Save Mart Center.

“The girls and I were so excited,” said Steel after the game. “The Save Mart Center treated us great with our own locker room and had “Bears” up on the scoreboard. It was a night none of us will ever forget.”

And of course “us” are the Buchanan players, including senior Kayla Everett, who couldn’t thank Duffy enough for the opportunity.

“It was really exciting to play at the Save Mart Center and when we got there it felt like a dream,” said Everett. “Playing in a different venue then we are used to, in front of the people who support us the most can cause some nerves to form, but I think once we got over our nerves and really started to play the game we fell in love with is when the game became real.”

Oh yeah, the game. Buchanan (5-2) had fun with an added cherry on top, beating Cabrillo 52-42 behind Everett’s 13 points and Hannah Lovering and Kara Kutsuris each with 12. They played without their two leading scorers Jaiden Jones and Bree Wellington due to injury.

“Danny is truly a kind guy who gave us this great opportunity,” added Cooper. “I can’t thank him enough. He took a ton of time to talk to kids, sign autographs and take pictures. I look up to him a lot and he’s a great guy with a very caring heart.”

Clovis basketball places second at HIT

Clovis High found their groove after a sluggish 1-5 start to the season and advanced to the championship game of the Hoover Invitational Tournament (HIT), before losing to Fresno High 50-38. The road wasn’t easy but the Cougars sure had some excitement along the way, highlighted by a game-ending shot by sophomore guard Jaylen Wills against Roosevelt.

With the score tied at 46 apiece in the opening round game and the clock winding down Wills, recently inserted into the game at the previous time-out, took a pass on the right side about 20-feet out, drove to the hoop amongst the trees (and Roosevelt’s 6’9” big-man Bryson Williams) and flipped up a left-handed shot just as time expired.

“I heard my teammates counting down from five, so I thought ‘It’s now or never,’” said Wills, who plays alongside his brother, senior JJ. “So I drove and shot the layup.”

Excited? You bet. A little befuddle, especially for a sophomore who just made his first game-winning shot ever in his life? No doubt.

“My first thought was disbelief and I said to myself ‘Did that just go in?’” said Wills. “Then I turned and saw everyone including the crowd and my teammates and it was just pure excitement. To see the look on my parent’s face, there are no words to explain how I felt when I saw how proud they were of me.”

Clovis head coach Wil Hooker implored to his team not to settle for jump shots in that situation and be strong and aggressive. Mission accomplished in round one – but there were still more games to be played.

After beating Washington Union 53-44 and Madera 58-55, the Cougars fell to Fresno in the championship game, giving up 17 offensive rebounds in the process. But Coach Hooker was still pleased with the team’s tenacity and fighting spirit.

“After those four games and watching other teams in our area, I really believe that we’re not that far off,” said Hooker, the second all-time leading scorer in the history of Fresno State in his first season as the Cougars head coach. “We can compete and win. I believe in what my staff and I are teaching and our players are starting to believe more and more. More importantly our confidence is growing.”

The Clovis West basketball team took off the Sunday of the Nike Tournament of Champions to take in an NBA game between the Phoenix Suns and the Milwaukee Bucks. The Golden Eagles went 3-1 in the huge tournament and brought home the consolation trophy. (Photo courtesy of Clovis West)

Clovis West girls play against the best in Arizona 

If it wasn’t for one final play, who knows where the Clovis West girls basketball team would have finished.

Playing in the Nike Tournament of Champions in Arizona, a massive event attracting the best high school talent in the United States (64 teams to be exact), the Golden Eagles were pitted against Hamilton of Arizona in the opening round, the No. 1 ranked team in the state.

And unfortunately, the ball just didn’t bounce their way on the final possession as Hamilton converted a short shot for a 59-57 victory, sending them to the consolation bracket.

It was a frustrating loss for the 8-2 Golden Eagles who jumped out to a 19-11 first quarter lead and were leading by four points late in the fourth quarter. However, it’s a tournament that Coach Craig Campbell loves the challenge of, and the exposure his team gets.

“It’s a fantastic experience and is the largest and greatest high school tournament in the nation,” said Campbell. “The competition is outstanding and we had 10-30 college coaches in attendance at every one of our games.”

Clovis West was led by a trio of juniors against the Huskies, who boasted three players six-feet or taller, in Danae Marquez (15 points), Megan Anderson (13) and Bre’yanna Sanders (11).

But the Golden Eagles (8-2), showing much moxy, didn’t lay down the rest of the tournament, winning their final three games in the Mike Desper bracket and claiming the consolation championship, defeating Mesquite-Gilbert 66-58 behind Sarah Bates’ 17 points, Anderson’s 14 and Sanders’ and freshman Madison Campbell’s 12.

“We are so team oriented, different kids stepped up in different moments,” added Campbell. “We are still getting better and showed a lot of growth this week.”

During their Sunday off, the girls and coaches got to catch themselves an NBA game in Phoenix, a highlight of the trip.

TRAC Soccer kickin’ it

Don’t look now but it looks like the ladies of TRAC soccer are strutting their stuff early with the five-schools combining record of 36-8-10. Leading the way are Clovis West at 9-1-5 and Clovis East 7-1-1 and Clovis at 9-2-1. Oh and don’t forget about 4-time defending D-1 CIF Champion Buchanan at 5-1-1.

The boys are led by No. 1 ranked team in California and No. 8 overall Buchanan and their sparkling 9-0-2 record which includes a championship in the Western Lotto Showcase down south. Clovis High looks to challenge the Bears for TRAC supremacy with a 7-2-1 record.

The nitty-gritty of TRAC begins January 8.

All-TRAC football announced 

Photo by Nick Baker Clovis senior football player Josh Hokit was named the TRAC football Player of the Year. Hokit, who played safety and running back, led Clovis (11-2) to a co-TRAC title and a birth in the D-1 Central Section title game.
Clovis senior football player Josh Hokit was named the TRAC football Player of the Year. Hokit, who played safety and running back, led Clovis (11-2) to a co-TRAC title and a birth in the D-1 Central Section title game. (Photo by Nick Baker)

Player of the Year: Josh Hokit – Clovis, Offensive Player of the Year: Sean Kuenzinger – Clovis, Defensive Player of the Year: Jayson Lee – Clovis North, Caleb Kelly – Clovis West, Lineman of the Year: Ben Parker – Buchanan. Specialist of the Year: Mitchell Souza – Buchanan. Coach of the Year: Mike Jacot – Buchanan.

First team: JJ Wills, Coltin Velasquez, Jared Hill, Jarrett Cannon, Quinn Vosmera – Clovis. Robert Ogden, Bryson Young, Zak Levantino, Logan Fogg, Chibuikem Dunu – Buchanan. Eric Kroll, Garrett Richardson, Zoey Holloway, Jeremy Miller, Chases Maurer – Clovis North. Adrian Martinez, Johnny Rojas, Tyler Dunn – Clovis West. Marcus Washington, Trey Semien – Clovis East. Nick Szpor, Robert Bohanna – Central.