Senior Danae Marquez called it “completely indescribable.” Backcourt mate and fellow senior Sarah Bates says it’s “one of the greatest feelings ever.” Maddison Campbell says they “shocked the world.”
Just exactly who were those girls from the Central Valley, that blur of cardinal and gold on the court, turning heads, the talk of the most prestigious girls basketball tournament in the nation?
Well, those girls are a secret no more, the nation has been notified, that’s the Clovis West Golden Eagles who went on an unprecedented four-day run through the Nike Tournament of Champions in Arizona, culminated by a blitzing 67-45 win over three-time defending Florida state champions Miami Country Day in the championship game.
Oh, and on their way to the coveted championship, they took down the nation’s No. 9, 14, 5 and 4 teams in succession on consecutive days, leaving them in their wake – a blitz that surely will be talked about for years to come.
“It’s completely surreal and pretty insane what these girls have accomplished the past four days,” said Clovis West coach Craig Campbell, whose No. 8 nationally ranked team beat Long Beach Poly and suffered their only loss on the season to No. 2 Archbishop Mitty in Hawaii two weeks ago. “Between the last two games in Hawaii, it’s been six-consecutive state championship-caliber games. For the kids to get up each game emotionally, mentally and physically for that level of competition is amazing.”
Riding the hot shooting of sophomore Maddie Campbell (daughter of Coach Campbell) and her six 3-pointers, Clovis West used its signature stifling defense and deep rotation to overwhelm Miami Country Day in the final. After the Spartans cut a once 10-point lead to 43-41 with 7:43 left in the fourth quarter, the Golden Eagles went on a 24-4 run to end the game.
Clovis West (11-1) led 18-14 after one and 30-22 at halftime, increasing the lead to 41-31 with 2:20 left in the third quarter. But Miami Country Day would go on a 10-2 run of their own to close the gap to just two points 17 seconds into the fourth quarter.
That’s when Campbell called a timeout, sensing a another potential run by the Spartans. Clovis West would respond with back-to-back 3-pointers from Marquez and Campbell to make it 49-41. The Golden Eagles would never look back.
“We always believed in ourselves but this win just solidifies it even more for us,” said Marquez, a senior and four-year varsity player. “We knew coming into Arizona it was going to be far from a walk in the park but we were hungry and excited for the task at hand. We just wanted to make some noise.”
A tremendous run for a public school at a tournament filled with private institutions. If fact, Clovis West beat three private schools: No. 9 St. John’s of Washington D.C. 75-58 to open the tournament – a game many thought would be the top game of the opening round – state rival No. 14 St. Mary’s of Stockton 63-58 and No. 4 Miami Country Day in the final. They beat public school Centennial of Nevada 57-42 in the semi-finals, a game they led 50-24 at one point. Centennial has over 4,000 students compared to 2,100 for Clovis West.
“I told the girls that we could play at this level after the Mitty loss,” said Campbell, who started his coaching career in Nevada and is now in his 13th year at Clovis West. “First, we have to do all the little things every possession because we don’t have the elite athletes that some of these private schools have. They really ingrained that into their psyche. They just battled.”
And now the question has to be asked: could Clovis West be ranked No. 1 in the nation when the next expert polls come out? The Golden Eagles certainly have a good case.
Campbell earned tournament MVP honors and scored 23 points in the final, at one point hitting six-consecutive threes, finally missing on her seventh attempt. And to top off the phenomenal performance, she impressed some of the top college programs around so much that Washington and Arizona of the Pac-12 offered her scholarships a few hours after the game.
“It’s great to see her get going because she’s really grown her game,” said her coach and proud father. “She’s always played well in the big moments. She’s also a compliment to all those great players around her.”
Campbell also praised the strong play of Bre’yanna Sanders (defense), Marquez (steers the ship), Bates (playing at a high level), Megan Anderson (rebounding, dirty work), Tess Amundsen (can score with anybody), Ana Maldonado (tremendous effort) and Champney Pulliam (shot the lights out in the St. Mary’s game).
“It’s still kind of sinking in what we just accomplishment,” Campbell said. “Most of those teams are going to go back and win the state championship in their respective state. For our kids to win four of those in a row like that, wow. It’s hands down the biggest accomplishment in Clovis West girls’ basketball history.”