A Saturday night tune-up against the visiting Shadow Hills Knights was exactly what the doctor ordered for the Clovis West boys’ basketball team.
Weird to say for a Clovis West squad sporting an 18-1 record and the top MaxPreps ranking in the Central Section, but the Golden Eagles needed one more game to get right before league play begins on Tuesday.
In their 71-59 victory, there were flashes of dominance, particularly in the first quarter that featured an overwhelming 20-0 Clovis West scoring run. There were also signs of a basketball team trying to get its groove back.
And they were. Clovis West returned three starters to the lineup Saturday including its two leading scorers, guard Issac Martinez and forward Tyus Parrish-Tillman, and senior guard Trey Carr.
The trio were unavailable during the Modesto Christian Holiday Hoop Classic due to COVID-19 protocols, a total of four games. One of those games resulted in Clovis West’s lone loss, 72-56 to Pleasant Valley.
When they hit the court again for their first live game in 18 days, it took some time to adjust.
“It was difficult,” Parrish-Tillman said. “We had a week to practice, but I wasn’t really back to myself, like stamina-wise.”
The 6-foot-8 senior still put on a show with five slam dunks, two of them alley-oops, on his way to a team-high 21 points. His first breakaway dunk sparked Clovis West’s big run in the first quarter.
Nine of Clovis West’s 20 unanswered points came from the hot hand of sophomore Jackson Young. He drilled three 3-pointers in the opening quarter and finished with 18 points.
Clovis West head coach Vance Walberg praised Young’s performance and his role on the team as a sneaky threat behind Martinez and Parrish-Tillman.
“Issac’s very good, Tyus is very good, and Jackson is the guy who hides and, all of a sudden, he has 15 [points] here and 16 there,” Walberg said.
There were times where it looked like Clovis West would run Shadow Hills out of the gym. It never happened. The Knights, a very athletic team capable of knocking down 3-pointers in a pinch, matched bucket for bucket throughout the second and third quarter.
Trailing by double digits for most of the game, Shadow Hills cut Clovis West’s lead to eight during the fourth quarter. A quick 7-0 spurt from Clovis West sealed the deal, but the Knights hung around longer than expected by Walberg.
“The frustrating thing for me is we just don’t know how to close out games,” Walberg said. “We just do a lot of goofy things. It’s been that way all year. Hell, if we can make layups and free throws, we’d be a hell of a team.”
Clovis West hosts Clovis North (10-6) Tuesday at 7 p.m. to open Tri-River Athletic Conference play. The Golden Eagles defeated the Broncos in triple overtime, 102-94, in their first meeting on Dec. 11.
With another competitive battle expected, Parrish-Tillman said Saturday was “really important” for getting himself and Clovis West back into rhythm.
“I needed this game,” Parrish-Tillman said. “This was big-time.”