Cole Anderson admitted his first half against Clovis East wasn’t up to par; rushed shots, a tweaked ankle and a tight Timberwolves defense held him in check to the tune of only three points.
However, it was only a matter of time before the super sophomore got hot.
Down by 10 points early in the third quarter, Anderson torched Clovis East for 15 in the quarter. He finished with 25 and led Clovis West to a solid 74-68 home win over Clovis East in front of a packed and frenzied crowd at the Eagles’ Nest.
Though only a sophomore, Anderson has plenty of experience; he broke the Clovis West record last year for most points as a freshman.
“These are my favorite games to play, the crowd gets you pumped up,” Anderson said, who came in averaging 20 points per game. “It’s better than a boring game.”
It was anything but boring with seven lead changes in the fourth quarter alone, reminiscent of their Jan. 16 matchup won by the Golden Eagles 69-65.
As for Anderson, shooters gotta shoot right?
“No matter if I’m 0-7 or 7-7 I’m still shooting the big shot, I have confidence,” Anderson says. “If you think you’re not going to make it then you’re not going to.”
Clovis East (19-7, 5-3) shot out of the gate with a fired up defense and a balanced offense, leading 15-10 after one quarter and 36-30 at halftime behind Will Wiggins, Shawno Roberts and Jermal Pittman.
Coming out of half, the Timberwolves opened with two quick buckets for a 40-30 lead but that’s when Anderson, at 6-foot-4 with a lightning quick release, started to get hot.
“Cole was struggling in the first half and when he’s on we are so much better,” Clovis West coach Vance Walberg said. “He’s a special scorer, he’s got that scorers mentality.”
After Clovis East’s Wiggins (coach Adrian Wiggins’ son) made a 3-pointer for a 52-49 lead, Clovis West (24-3, 7-1) cut the lead to 54-52 after Grayson Carper’s 3-pointer from the corner with two seconds left in the third.
It was then the momentum started to shift.
With 5:11 left in the fourth Anderson nailed a left baseline 3-pointer off a pass from Alex Villi, breaking a 60-60 tie, but Clovis East responded with buckets from Roberts (16 points) and Wiggins (career-high 17 points) to take a 64-63 lead.
Anderson’s two free throws with 3:34 left put the Golden Eagles up for good.
“Just keep battling and play good defense,” Anderson told himself after his 3-pointer. “I didn’t shoot very good in the first half but I was really happy my teammates trusted me to shoot the ball. I was shooting long in the first half, I just had to calm down.”
In the physical game that was whistled for 40 fouls (17 for Clovis West, 23 for Clovis East), the Golden Eagles made 11 of 15 free throws in the fourth quarter, sealing the win.
“They [Clovis East] are tough to get to the rim against and do a great job of bumping and sliding underneath you and play much taller than their size,” Walberg said. “They are a very well coached team and are tough as heck. Adrian [Wiggins] is a great coach.”
Walberg says the team is playing good basketball right now but hasn’t played its best game of the season, all the while singing the praise of senior Dante Chachere’s all-around game.
“Dante is a stud for us, an unsung hero,” Walberg said of the 6-foot-4 Portland State-bound quarterback. “Next thing you know he’s done this defensive play, he’s got that rebound, he’ll make that bucket and get that offensive putback.
“As good as a player Dante is, he’s a better kid.”
Chachere and Anderson are the only returners who played significant minutes last year, and if the team wants to advance far into the playoffs, leadership is a key.
“It feels good because I’m one of the older guys on the team and the guys look up to me,” Chachere said. “We [Villi and Carper] just have to lead and everyone will follow us…we just have to do the right thing.”