Before playing top seed Bakersfield in the Division 3-A regional girls’ basketball semifinal on Thursday, Adam Wall booked a hotel in Temecula, California, where No. 2 seed Chaparral plays.
The Buchanan head coach was planning in advance for a Buchanan win and a trip to the regional championship game two days later.
But after No. 5 seed Buchanan upset Bakersfield on the road, 53-44, Wall discovered his expected title game opponent, Chaparral, lost its semifinal matchup against No. 6 seed Del Norte.
“Right after the game, I had to shoot an email and say, ‘Hey, we’re not going down [to Temecula]. We’re hosting,’” Wall said.
Playing its first-ever regional championship game inside its home gym, Buchanan defeated Del Norte on Saturday, 78-62, becoming Division-3A Southern California girls’ basketball champions.
Having to unexpectedly cancel hotel reservations is one of many instances where Wall adjusted to a sudden change in plans. Four Buchanan starters lost their season to ACL injuries this season, including a pair of seniors headed to play college basketball — point guard Olivia Garcia (Fresno Pacific) and wing Reagan Stermer (Briar Cliff University).
Despite it all, Buchanan (15-8) ended its season with its first regional championship in program history.
“One thing we talked to our kids about is that we can all make excuses,” Wall said. “You make excuses, you feel sorry for yourself. It is what it is. With COVID and injuries, we can’t go back. All we can do is move forward.”
Senior forward Ashtyn Arnold shined for Buchanan during the regional playoffs. She dropped 39 points in an opening round win at Ayala in Chino Hills Tuesday, scored 19 in Bakersfield, and poured in 29 while grabbing 13 boards in Saturday’s final.
Overall, Arnold averaged 29 points and 10.3 rebounds in Buchanan’s first three regional playoff wins in program history. She will play at Bellevue University in Nebraska on an athletic scholarship.
“With the season that our girls had, with some of the wins they had, and finishing with the regional championship, it is unbelievable,” Wall said. “You name any other program in the Central Valley or the state that loses four starters and is able to bounce back from that. It is pretty special.”
Clovis North tops Clovis for first Central Section softball championship in program history
Head coach Courtney Dale took over the Clovis North softball program 10 years ago, when the Broncos played in Division-III.
The former Bullard and UCLA pitcher raised the team to Division-I, where they were one of the smallest schools.
“There were some rough years,” Dale said, “but going down into the elementary school level and Granite Ridge Intermediate, bringing excitement back into softball in the community, and having elementary kids get involved in creating a program and a culture has paid off.”
Clovis North saw the culmination of its program-building on Thursday night, as the Broncos defeated Clovis High to win its first ever Central Section softball championship, 6-3.
Sophomore left-hander Ryan Maddox, the TRAC Player of the Year, pitched a complete game, striking out 10. At the plate, she also went 3-for-4 with a home run and two runs batted in.
“Those kids that I started working with in fifth and sixth grade are now in high school,” Dale said. “Ryan Maddox was seven when I started working with her… watching them grow up and mature into wonderful young women that are competitive and great teammates has been really fulfilling.”
Freshman Alexis DeBoer, daughter of Fresno State head football coach Kalen DeBoer, also homered in the Central Section final. Freshman Kiara Sipe chipped in two RBIs in a four-run fifth inning that broke a 2-2 tie.
“It was a team effort,” Dale said. “This team plays for each other, and they’re selfless. They celebrate each other’s successes, and it’s amazing to watch.”
Clovis North (21-1) finished its season with a No. 9 state ranking according to Cal-Hi Sports. The Broncos will not participate in the Southern California regional playoffs.
Buchanan girls, Central boys win Division-I track and field championships
The Buchanan girls’ track and field team won another Central Section team track & field championship Saturday, the program’s sixth in a row and 11th total.
For the boys, Central won the Division-I title by a close margin over Clovis High. Central scored 102 team points, including two first-place finishes by Jeremiah Walker in the 200 and 400-meter dash.
Clovis, who saw its star sprinter Nate Johnson take first place in the 100-meter dash with a time of 10.52 seconds, finished 0.67 points behind Central at 101.33.
The Buchanan boys finished third in the team standings with 77 points. Fresno Pacific-bound senior Bo Olsen won the 800 and 1600-meter races.
The Buchanan girls’ track & field team won by a wider margin over second-place Clovis North. The Bears scored 155.5 team points, while the Broncos recorded 104.
Buchanan’s Lauren Fowler took first place in the 100-meter dash (11.63) and 200-meter dash (24.02), winning a pair of individual Central Section championships before competing at the University of New Mexico next year.
Fowler was also part of Buchanan’s first-place 4×100-meter girls’ relay.