By Paul Meadors | Sports Editor
There was a prevailing thought that Clovis North would have a drop off this season after a sparkling 20 win season, a co-TRAC championship and a berth in the Valley championship game mainly because of the loss of Jonah Brown and TRAC MVP Javon Johnson and their 34 combined points per game.
But let’s go ahead and squash that assumption – the Broncos have started off league with three straight wins against rival Clovis West, Clovis and Clovis East as last season’s returners have stepped up their game – a year wiser, stronger and more experienced.
“I still think we have good balanced scoring and we have a little more firepower than people think,” said head coach Tony Amundsen, in his fourth year at Clovis North. “Guys have stepped up. Ben’s rolls becomes bigger and so does Elijah’s, Dom’s and Chad’s. Those scoring responsibilities become larger.”
Amundsen is referring to seniors Ben Avera, Elijah Straughter, Dom Reyes and Chad Fugman. Avera, a six-foot-six swing-man is scoring 19 points per game and Elijah Straughter, the man in the middle is averaging 14 points, eight rebounds and three blocks. As a team the Broncos (14-6) are scoring 71 points per game, continuing their signature pressure defense.
“We’re happy with where we are at right now, we also understand that two of those first three games were at home,” said Amundsen, who won three Central Section titles at Bullard before moving over to Clovis North. “We’re going to have more away games in the second half, so we have to be ready for that.”
True, and starting off league with a tightly contested 83-73 win over rival Clovis West was just what the doctor ordered. Clovis West came in with an impressive 17-1 overall record) but Clovis North had answers, namely in Avera (22 points) and Straughter (20 points) alongside the stellar leadership of point guard Reyes. Clovis North hit 13 threes in the game from eight different players and outscored Clovis West 48-36 in the second half, overturning a 35-37 halftime deficit. Senior Taj Gill had three three-pointers to go along with 11 points.
Straughter imposed his will throughout the game, evidenced by his four blocks and two dunks, also grabbing 14 rebounds. He also made three 3-pointers in the game, a career high.
“We just wanted to show people what our team was capable of doing tonight, we played great team defense and offense,” Straughter said.
Adding to the rivalry was the return of Vance Walberg to the Golden Eagles sidelines after an extremely successful coaching stint there from 1990-2003. Walberg, who coached Amundsen (and brothers Tim and Ty) at Newark Memorial in the Bay Area in the 1980s, is responsible for a fun brand of basketball which includes the “dribble-drive” offense and full court, pressure defense many teams in the Central Section use today.
For Clovis West, they were led by Adrian Martinez (17), Walter Graves (16) and Adrian Antunez (15). Antunez seemed to twist an ankle early in the second quarter and finished nine points below his season average of 24 points per game.
“He’s carried us in a lot of games already but were really sloppy with the ball,” said Walberg, who spent the last five years coaching as an assistant in the NBA. “We put a lot of pressure on Adrian and he struggled a little tonight, but we have no excuses, we just need to find a way.”
OTHER GAMES FROM JAN 13
Central 78 Buchanan 71
Central beat Buchanan at home in the opening game of TRAC behind Cam’Ron Wilson’s 28 and Cashemin Williams 22 points. The first quarter did in the Bears as they found themselves down 20-11 and were led by junior Spencer Heimerdinger’s 24 points and senior Tyree Leggett’s 19.
Clovis East 61 Clovis 48
The Timberwolves led 42-39 heading into the fourth quarter pulled away by outscoring the Cougars 18-9 for the 13 point win. For Clovis East Jaylen Johnson and Jamie Rotundo each scored 13 and Spencer Matthes chipped in 12. For Clovis Anthony Martinez scored 13.
GAMES FROM JAN 17
Clovis West 88 Central 76
Clovis West (18-2) responded nicely after the Clovis North loss with an impressive 88-76 win at Central behind Adrian Antunez’s 27 points, outscoring the Grizzlies 34-23 in the fourth quarter. Walter Graves scored 18 including four dunks and Adrian Martinez chipped in with 14. Cashemin Williams, a junior guard, scored 28 and Cam’Ron Wilson and Eddie McFall scored 14 each for Central (10-6).
Buchanan 55 Clovis East 54 (OT)
Buchanan (15-6) outlasted Clovis East (13-7) in overtime behind 22 points from six-foot-seven junior Spencer Heimerdinger and 18 from sophomore Jonah Crumpton-Murray. Clovis East was led by Jamie Atundo’s 14 points and Jaylen Johnson’s 11.
Clovis North 69 Clovis 48
Clovis North didn’t let up after their big win over Clovis West in beating Clovis in the Cougars’ gym. Elijah Straughter scored 22, Ben Avera 12 and Dom Reyes 11 for the Broncos while Anthony Martinez scored 16 and Cooper Huyck 10 for the Cougars (12-10).
GAMES ON JAN 20
Clovis West 83 Buchanan 65
Clovis West (18-2) scored the game’s first 15 points en route to an 83-65 home win over Buchanan (15-6). Walter Graves scored 17, Adrian Antunez 15 and Adrian Martinez 9 in a game the starters sat out the entire fourth quarter. Senior Tyree Leggett and sophomore Jonah Crumpton-Murray scored 12 points each. Clovis West led 48-27 at halftime.
“After the hard loss to Clovis North it made us see what we really needed to work on,” said Antunez when asked how his team responded after losing to Clovis North in the first game of league, then responding by beating Central and Buchanan. “Like Coach Walberg says ‘We won’t take the pressure off until we’re up 40.’”
Central 61 Clovis 47
The home Grizzlies led 35-19 at halftime and cruised to a 14 point win over the winless Cougars. Central and their two-guard combo of Cam’Ron Wilson (17 points) and Cashemin Williams (13) led the way.
Clovis North 69 Clovis East 54
The Broncos won their third straight league game jumping out to a 31-17 lead over Clovis East. Broncos’ 6-6 Elijah Straughter continue his torrid start with his third 20-point game in a row, Chad Fugman scored 12 and Ben Avera and Dom Reyes each scored 9.
Standings as of Jan. 21
Clovis North 3-0
Clovis West 2-1
Clovis East 1-2