— Paul Meadors (@paulmeadors) March 26, 2017
By Paul Meadors | Sports Editor
SACRAMENTO – The Nike swoosh upon her forehead was surely a sign of things to come; the swoosh symbolizes motion and speed, the word Nike comes from the Greek goddess of victory.
And when Clovis West desperately needed a spark, their state championship hopes dwindling by the minute, down 37-30 early in the fourth quarter on the biggest and brightest stage, what they got was a sizzling bolt of lightning in the form of Sarah Bates.
Bates ignited a furious rally with 5:39 left in the fourth quarter by scoring 11 straight points in about a four minute span, set off from a baseline pass from Danae Marquez for a layup, foul, and made free throw, propelling Clovis West to a thrilling and exhilarating 44-40 victory over Archbishop Mitty in the CIF Open Division championship game at Golden 1 Center, the Golden Eagles first state title in school history.
Bates, one of five senior scholarship players and wearing that black Nike headband, energized herself, her teammates, and the pro-Clovis West crowd with a legendary performance from that electric layup on, including two 3-pointers from the top of the key off assists from Megan Anderson and Maddie Campbell and another layup after another long Marquez pass.
That Bates Blitz stunned Archbishop Mitty (28-3), ranked No. 1 in California at the time, as the Knights were flustered by a hard-nosed Clovis West defense who contested every shot throughout the final quarter holding them to a meager 1-13 from the field.
“I’m still trying to process this – did we just do that?” said a euphoric Clovis West head coach Craig Campbell after the game. “These kids kept stepping up and stepping up. They are just resilient.”
The fourth quarter turned out to be quite the turn of events for Bates; the talented playmaker was actually benched to start the second half due to her poor play after scoring zero points with three turnovers in the first half. In fact, she hadn’t made a field goal until her streak.
But, a strict talking to from Campbell and a push from her teammates proved to be a timely motivator.
“My best friends got on me to get my head into the game,” said Bates, who’s attending USCB next season on scholarship, about her teammates. “Campbell really got on me and I really needed someone to say ‘start playing like Sarah.’”
Campbell admits Bates can catch fire in a flash: “She’s one of those kids in a big moment it doesn’t matter what has happened up to that next play. She’s capable of getting hot and the bigger the moment the better she plays.”
However, despite Bates heroics, the Golden Eagles (34-2) turned the ball over three times under the last minute of the game, and were clinging to a 42-40 lead when Danae Marquez calmly sealed the deal with two free throws with 5.4 seconds remaining.
Campbell knew his senior point guard would put the nail in the coffin.
“Ice in her veins,” said Bates.
It wasn’t until the final buzzer sounded that pure pandemonium filled the hardwood floor as a blur of Clovis West girls and coaches jumped and hugged and cried and screamed with looks of amazement that told the story of a magical season. That picture was worth a thousand words indeed.
“I told them three games ago that there’s nothing they could do to make us more proud of them,”
said Campbell, who won a state title in Nevada before coming to Clovis West 12 years ago.
“Winning a state championship doesn’t make us more proud – it’s a special reward for this group of girls that have sacrificed so much to buy in.”
Thus ends the high school careers of the Fab4 in pure collaborating style: Bates, Marquez, Anderson (nine points, five rebounds) and Bre’yanna Sanders (six rebounds, four steals), all four year varsity players, with four league and Valley titles, all with Division I college scholarships. Fellow senior Tess Amundsen chipped in with seven points and six rebounds and Maddie Campbell, the coach’s sophomore daughter, had four points, four assists and four steals.
Furthermore, the final win in an extraordinary season was against an Archbishop Mitty team that beat them 76-75 in overtime in the Iolani Classic in Hawaii back in December, a private school in San Jose that boasts six state titles under long time and successful coach Sue Phillips.
This was a season set up for success – Clovis West played the toughest schedule in the nation and responded with an iron fist, going 7-2 against top flight competition, including winning the Nike Tournament of Champions in Arizona which included wins against No. 2 Centennial of Las Vegas the Nevada state champion, No. 3 St. John’s of Washington, DC and No. 5 Miami Country Day of Florida who are reigning four-time state champs.
And wouldn’t you know it, there crowning jewel in addition to winning the CIF Open State Championship – ESPN has crowned Clovis West the No. 1 team in the nation in their latest poll.
Those state championship rings just got a little bigger and brighter.
“We wanted it and we went out there and got it,” said Marquez, “What can get better than this? We can say that we are the best in California.”
The best in the nation to be exact, a Golden Eagle legacy etched in stone for all time, forged by the strike of lightning.