By Paul Meadors, Sports Editor
Twenty minutes after Clovis North throttled Buchanan 72-34 anxiety still permeated the Broncos’ gym. But nail-biting turned to cheers when Connor Amundsen, the 11-year old son of Coach Tony Amundsen, boomed over the microphone in front of about 50 parents, players and coaches that Clovis East beat Central, securing the Broncos’ TRAC co-championship with the Grizzlies.
And what a night Feb. 16 was, as the Broncos (19-8, 7-3) came out of the stables straight out of a Fast and the Furious movie, bolting to a 10-0 lead in the first two minutes and 32 seconds and never looking back behind the strong play of seniors Jonah Brown (17 points), Jahvon Johnson (14 points) and junior Ben Avera (18 points).
The TRAC championship is the first in school history.
And the clincher was over early. After one quarter it was 19-5 and the route was on under a flurry of fast breaks, pressure defense and energy on a night reserved to honor their five seniors.
“The kids played great,” said Amundsen, the third-year Broncos coach. “They played really, really hard and the standard we wanted to play at. We did a very nice job tonight.”
“I thought our defense was really tough and that leads to good opportunities on the offensive end.”
And who would know better of the highest standard then Amundsen, who coached Bullard to three straight D1 titles?
Despite eight losses on the season, the Broncos received the No. 1 seed, securing home court advantage throughout the playoffs. The Section Finals will be held at Selland Area from March 4-5.
The Broncos, using the heroic-type play of senior Brown are clicking at the right time, winners of five of their last six, including a 76-75 overtime win over Central on Feb. 12 when Brown hit a three-pointer off a double screen at the top of the key to force overtime.
“These guys [Buchanan] were hot coming in,” said Brown. “And to keep them under 40 points was great. Our defense was fantastic and we had some great shots from great players. I think everyone played really well.”
And the 6’3” Brown is as humble as he is talented. And there’s a good reason for this: he’s constantly been grounded by his parents – in a good way.
“They’ve blessed me in so many ways,” Brown said, talking about father, Broncos assistant coach Troy and mother Karen, who both played basketball at Fresno Pacific College. “They’ve built up my character and taught me how to humble myself.”
That was very easy to see. After the game, Brown was flooded by teammates and classmates celebrating the victory. And he reacts painfully shy when forced to talk about his own play on the court – he would rather talk about his teammates, including three-year starting-mate Johnson and fellow seniors Blake Landseadal, Carson Williams and Zach Jaeckel.
But for Buchanan (14-14, 5-5), winners of their last four, the loss was disappointing especially for a team that seemed on the uptick. Compounded with star player and Wake Forest signee Donovan Mitchell clearly not up to himself with only four points, the Bears will have to regroup entering the playoffs.
All things considered, Clovis North has goal No. 1 accomplished in winning the TRAC but now the focus is on a bigger prize.
“The two goals we set were the TRAC championship and the Valley championship,” said Amundsen. “If we get them both that would be great.”