By Paul Meadors, Sports Editor
Buchanan was sitting at 1-4 in league and they had a decision to make; either fold up the tent and pack it in or make some noise and come together as a team. And lo and behold, all it took was a crazy sequence at home against Central and look out, the Bears are now a force to be reckoned with.
On Tuesday, Feb. 2, the Bears found themselves in a peculiar situation against the TRAC leading and undefeated Grizzlies. Up by one point, 68-67, after Corey Williams put back an offensive rebound after a missed free throw, the Grizzlies had one final gasp with one second remaining in the game and the ball out on the sidelines. But, the Bears were whistled for a controversial foul at the buzzer which sent sophomore Cash Williams to the line for two free throws and a chance to win the game.
That’s when the Bears’ season turned around in a season where little has gone their way – Williams missed both free throws. Game over.
“The last 10 seconds was probably the craziest game I’ve ever been a part of as a coach,” said Buchanan coach Pat Geil, who pointed out the foul discrepancy at one point was 24-6 favoring Central. “We felt like we deserved to win the game so it was poetic justice. It sure was wild.”
The win pushed the Bears to a 2-4 record and a date at Clovis East, a team who had previously beat them 73-60 on their home court, on Friday, Feb. 5. How would this rejuvenated team respond? How about a 77-73 win behind Donovan Mitchell’s 28 points.
Geil points to the maturation of Mitchell, a Wake Forest signee who’s averaging well over 20 points per game, as a key to the team’s turnaround and the overall play of Williams who Geil calls “An X-factor.”
“He’s stepped up his trust with his teammates,” said Geil of Mitchell, who mentioned the Clovis East game was the best overall game he’s seen him play. “He’s realized he needs to trust his teammates and that we need everyone involved to be successful.”
The Bears will finish up TRAC play with games against Clovis West, Clovis and Clovis North and if the players continue to buy in and play with confidence then who knows, clicking at the right time could mean trouble for the rest of the Valley.
And with the Bears victory over Central that meant Clovis North was staring at the window of opportunity. As of Feb. 8, the Grizzlies were 6-1 in league and the Broncos 5-2 with a huge game scheduled for Friday, Feb. 12. The Broncos close out the season with a clash against Buchanan, which will definitely have playoff seeding implications.
On Friday, Feb. 2, an important game was played out for both Clovis North and Clovis West at the Stables Center, the name for the Broncos home court.
The great match-ups were set: the Broncos big-three of Jahvon Johnson, Jonah Brown and Elijah Straughter versus the Golden Eagles athletic three of Adrian Antunez, Adrian Martinez and Walter Graves III. And true to the billing, the game did not disappoint with the Broncos coming away with a 53-50 victory.
In the see-saw battle where the game was knotted at 19 a piece at halftime, it was senior Jonah Brown who hit the game’s big shot – a three-pointer with 5:25 left in the 4th quarter that gave the Broncos a 43-41 lead they would never relinquish.
Head coach Tony Amundsen, in his third season at Clovis North, made some adjustments from their 55-46 opening TRAC loss to Clovis West, and the players responded well.
“I thought our effort tonight was good,” said Amundsen. “Offensively I thought we looked for each other more and shared a little bit more. To their [Clovis West] credit they played great but our guys grinded it out and got the win.”
One of the keys was to stop Clovis West’s Graves, who has really come of his own recently. Graves used a variety of moves to score 22 points in the game including a monster dunk in the first quarter. How do you stop such a talented player? Amundsen explains: “No. 1 you have to keep him off the boards. If he’s getting offensive rebounds and put-backs that’s going to make him that much better. He did get some open looks and he nailed them.”
It was an emotional game as the night was dedicated to Jordan Johnson, the brother of Jahvon who suddenly passed away in late December. The team, coaches and fans wore t-shirts that said “Forever Our 6th Man” as a tribute to Johnson, who never missed a game.
Johnson and Brown each scored 16 points and Ben Avera chipped in with 11.