It was a tale of two halves for Clovis North boys basketball Thursday night. Unfortunately for the Broncos, the better half was not quite enough.
The Broncos were slow coming out of the gates and, despite a late charge, fell one shot short in a 74-71 defeat to Arroyo Grande in the Central Section Open Division third place game.
It was a night for both teams to rebound from losses Saturday in their respective semifinal games, yet for Clovis North, a sluggish start indicated there was still some carryover from its loss to Memorial five days ago.
“We can’t start a game like we did tonight,” Broncos head coach Tony Amundsen said. “We got to come out and be ready to go. When we are ready, we can beat anybody, but we’ve shown what can happen when we are not prepared.”
The result was Arroyo Grande jumping out to a 27-14 lead after the first quarter, fueled by senior Eagles guard Gage Gomez dropping 18 points in the opening eight minutes.
The Broncos could not hit their shots in the first half, especially from downtown, where the team connected on a single three-pointer. Turnovers also limited Clovis North’s offensive production throughout the half, as the deficit extended to 46-26 at halftime.
Once the second half started, the Broncos looked like a rejuvenated squad.
Clovis North matched its first half output in the third quarter alone, scoring 27 points through a bevy of three-pointers and inside scoring from senior center Terri Miller.
Arroyo Grande saw its lead shrink to 64-53 as play entered the fourth quarter, then witnessed a 16-5 Clovis North run capped by a steal and layup to even the game with under a minute left.
Tied at 69, Arroyo Grande’s Connor Angle connected on a three-pointer to retake the lead with 38 seconds left. Miller hit a layup on the next Clovis North possession, followed by Arroyo Grande knocking down two free throws to make it 74-71 with 8.4 seconds remaining.
A last-chance heave by the Broncos was wide right of the basket, securing a win for the visiting Eagles.
For Arroyo Grande, Gage Gomez finished with a game-high 30 points and senior guard/forward Robert Hutchens totaled 23 points for an Eagles squad that enters the state tournament with a 24-6 record.
As for Clovis North, Blake Freeman and Terri Miller each scored 13 points in a game the Broncos look to use as a learning lesson moving forward.
“It’s a tough one to lose, but we learn from it,” Miller said. “The close games we’ve played this year bring experience, so when we face adversity during State, we will know how to handle it.”
Clovis North (21-9) will find out where their state tournament journey starts when brackets are released March 1, with opening rounds beginning March 3.