By Paul Meadors | Sports Editor
Doesn’t it just seem like we were in the middle of Christmas break, recharging our batteries for the coming new year? Now, believe it or not, we are in the stretch run for our winter sports: basketball, soccer and wrestling. Basketball seedings will take place on Saturday, Feb. 18 with playoffs starting on Feb 21. The CIF Central Section championship games are scheduled for March 3-4 at Selland Arena.
The Clovis West boys were looking good as a No. 1 until they fell to Central (see below) but there’s still hope for the Golden Eagles. They are currently 22-3 and have some quality wins over Central Section opponents Bakersfield, Liberty and Ridgeview. They also beat Central 88-73 in the first round of TRAC so they’re 1-1 against them. Heck, I may have convinced myself they should still be the No. 1 seed.
The Clovis West girls will cruise into the playoff as the No. 1 seed, no Central Section team has beat them and they’re No. 2 in the state and No. 5 in the nation with a sparkling 24-2 record. Book it, even it there was a monumental upset in one of their final three league games.
Soccer seedings are Saturday, Feb. 11 with playoffs starting on Feb. 14 with both boys and girls teams from Clovis and Buchanan battling for top honors. Unfortunately, the big Cougars and Bears girls matchup was cancelled due to rain.
And for wrestling starting on Feb. 11, they have the TRAC Championship, Valley Championships, Master’s Championship and the granddaddy of them all – the State Championships from March 3-4. Buchanan and Clovis are the cream of the crop, No. 1 and No. 2 in the state.
Central beats Clovis West, takes control of TRAC
If it wasn’t for those pesky first and fourth quarters Clovis West could be singing a different tune.
Instead, the Golden Eagles couldn’t take advantage of two great middle quarters of basketball at home against Central in falling 66-64 to the Grizzlies to fall to 5-2 in league and 22-3 overall on Feb. 3. With a win, they could have controlled their own destiny en route to a league title and possibly a No. 1 seed in the Central Section playoffs.
Clovis West, two and a half weeks after beating Central 88-76 at their place, fell behind 22-9 after the first quarter, then outscored Central 46-27 in quarters two and three, before losing steam in a frustrating 17-9 drubbing in the final quarter.
“Hopefully we’ll learn from it,” said head coach Vance Walberg. “[I’m] asking my seniors to step up – it’s their time of year. No more fancy plays, just simple plays.”
Clovis West dug themselves out of a 13-25 deficit they found themselves in early in the second quarter behind senior guard Adrian Antunez and Eseosa Ogbeide. Ogbeide’s rebound and three-point play pulled the Golden Eagles to within six at 21-27 with 4:38 left in the second and Antunez’s steal and basketball closed the scoring in the half at 33-36.
The comeback was made complete when sophomore Dante Chachere played some of his best basketball of the year with some sharp shooting, scoring on a putback and two 3-pointers in a span of 2:31 to take a 43-41 lead with 4:53 remaining in the third.
Walberg may have found a diamond in the rough in Chachere, calling him “a first class kid, a Clovis West-type basketball player.”
However, the fourth quarter was not kind to the Golden Eagles, letting an opportunity to pounce on the Grizzlies slip on by. After an Antunez steal and layup increased the lead to 57-51 just 26 seconds into the fourth, it was Central that pushed the pace, ending the game on a 15-7 run led by Central Cash Williams.
Clovis West did have a chance to tie the game down three – with 9.6 seconds left and the possession of the ball, Walberg called timeout and set up a screen play for shooting guard Fernando Guardado who was fouled before he could get a shot off, sending him to the line for two shots with 1.6 seconds remaining. He made the first and then intentionally missed the second but Central rebounded the ball.
Clovis West was without Adrian Martinez for the second half as the dual-athlete (TRAC Player of the Year in football as a quarterback) was nursing a sore foot, an injury suffered two days earlier against Clovis North. He only scored two points on the night.
Cash Williams, Central’s standout guard was excellent scoring a game-high 30 points. The lefty junior, in his third season of varsity basketball, dazzled with an array of mad dashes to the hoop, using his long arms allowing him to extend upward towards the basket.
Antunez finished with 16 (about 8 points below his average) and Walter Graves scored 16 while Charache scored 10.
Walberg pointed out the fact that he loved Charache’s play, calling him “a first class kid and a Clovis West-type player.”
“Overall, I was proud how they competed,” said Walberg. “Dante, I was very proud of him and Nick Coleman gives everything he has out there.”
Clovis West finishes the season at Buchanan and Clovis East then at home against Clovis on Feb. 15.
Football news: Quinn out at CN, Reynolds in at CE
There’s been a shakeup among the TRAC football coaches – for one school there was time for a change and for another they were given quite a shocker.
First, the shocker – Casey Quinn, in only his first year at the helm of the Clovis North football program, abruptly left the program, seemingly in the middle of the night, telling Athletic Director Coby Lindsay he was immediately taking a job at McFarland. He called Lindsay on Saturday, Jan. 23 and apparently was already working at McFarland on following Monday.
Quinn led the Broncos to a 6-6 record and 2-3 in the TRAC. They lost 33-28 in a heartbreaker at Liberty-Bakersfield in the Division I Central Section playoffs after the beat Frontier 49-12. Before Clovis North he coached at Cesar Chavez-Delano in 2014-15, Roosevelt in 2013 and Central from 2008-11.
According to a news release from Clovis Unified, Quinn is relocating to be closer to family members. Lindsay states a final announcement will be made in a few weeks but in the meantime current Clovis North Educational Center teacher and coach Benny Martinez is leading the program.
And at Clovis East, Jim O’Brien is out as coach after a 0-10 season and Ryan Reynolds is in, tasked with trying to resurrect the once-proud Timberwolves program.
Clovis East has been plagued by an alarming trend of dwindling numbers – as low as 28 suited up for a game this season in a school enrollment hovering around 2,200. From 2011-16 they were 9-55, and 8-46 46 under O’Brien. They have won two Central Section championships and six TRAC titles in the school’s history, all under Tim Murphy.
Reynolds is no stranger to the Clovis East football program. In fact, he was Murphy’s defensive coordinator for those championship teams. He followed Murphy to Clayton Valley High School (Concord) in 2012 where together they have amassed an impressive 69-9 record.
26 CUSD student-athletes sign National Letters of Intent
Feb 1 has been earmarked for many high school athletes all over the country. And for 26 Clovis Unified student-athletes they were finally able to put pen to paper and officially declare where they’ll spend the next four year of their lives. For many, it was a difficult decision, weighing the pros and cons on different offers; do I stay close to home, does this college have the major I’m most interested in, do I even see myself getting playing time. But for others, the choice was easy; everything just simply fit.
Two such student-athletes were football player Isaiah Cordova from Clovis North and soccer player Gia Jager from Clovis West. Cordova, a first team all TRAC selection, spurned Division I offers from New Mexico, Utah State and Northern Colorado and chose Azusa Pacific University, a Division II school, falling in love with the school and the opportunity to play immediately.
“I feel Azusa was just the overall greatest fit for me,” said Cordova, who played defensive back and returned kicks in high school. “I just know that God has created a path for me and I just felt the coaching staff, the atmosphere and the academics drew me closer and closer to an easier decision.”
Jager committed to play soccer at Fresno Pacific during her sophomore year, citing that she was attracted to the school’s academic focus, the small, religious community and the opportunity to play soccer in front of family and friends.
And what a thrill it was for both athletes to sit up on stage in front of their friends and family on signing day – a day they’ll soon never forget.
“It showed them that everything we have been working towards over the past 12 years of my soccer career have paid off,” said Jager. “It is something that I will never forget.”
Cordova echoed her statement.
“Sitting up there on the stage was something that I dreamed about one day,” said Cordova. “I put so much time and effort into making my dreams of playing college football a reality – it was an unbelievable feeling of accomplishment. I couldn’t have been more blessed to have so many friends and family come support me.”
Cade Belshay, wrestling, Penn University
Hanna Hathoway, soccer, Fresno Pacific University
Stephan Morris, soccer, Fresno Pacific University
Carson Olson, baseball, Cal Berkeley
Kristiana Pagaini, soccer, Fresno Pacific University
Jacob Rudolph, soccer, UC Davis
Emily Murrell, soccer, Mount Marty College
Logan Pattie, soccer, Fresno Pacific University
Jonah Wilson, track and field, University of Washington
Stacia Williams, soccer, Fresno Pacific University
Zevan Williams, volleyball, University of California, Irvine
Mia Castillo, soccer, Fresno Pacific University
Nikki Crouch, track and field, Fresno Pacific University
Peyton Kwallwasser, soccer, Fresno Pacific University
Addison Aguilar, cross country/track and field, Tusculum University
Ben Avera, basketball, Azusa Pacific University
Molly Borders, diving, Fresno State
Isaiah Cordova, football, Azusa Pacific University
Tammy Lin, golf, New Mexico
Natalie Nurcanyan, soccer, San Francisco State
Karlee Pottorff, soccer, San Jose State
Ashlee Gray, soccer, Fresno Pacific University
Gia Jager, soccer, Fresno Pacific University
Stewart Mallam, water polo, Fresno Pacific University
Anais Mayo, soccer, Chico State University
Clive Truschel, football, Fresno State