It was a long time coming, but Clovis North can finally call themselves TRAC champions.
Co-champs to be exact, but sweet nonetheless.
In a matchup of Central Section heavyweights on Feb. 4, the Broncos beat state No. 3 Clovis West 40-36 at home, outscoring the Golden Eagles 14-4 in the fourth quarter and breaking Clovis West’s remarkable 68 game league winning streak to tie atop the standings at 8-1.
Two days later, both teams went on to win their final home league games; Clovis West crushing Clovis 75-24 and Clovis North over Buchanan 77-52.
“There is a lot of emotion mixed in – there were so many people who worked so hard,” Clovis North coach Heather Long said about the win over Clovis West. “They [Clovis West] have been the gold standard and it’s been our goal to build that and compete on a level they compete at. To be able to beat them was seven years of a lot of hard work.”
In addition to the 68 game winning streak, Clovis West has won six straight Division I Central Section titles, the 2017 CIF State Open title, and a No. 1 national ranking.
Long was hired at Clovis North seven years ago and the goal clearly stated early in the process.
“The goal wasn’t necessarily to beat Clovis West but to win a league championship,” said Long, a Clovis West grad where she was Girls Athlete of the Year. “They [Clovis West] are so talented and well-respected and for us to be able to compete with that and pull it off was a tribute to the kids and their hard work.”
Clovis West (26-3) hadn’t lost a league game since Feb. 17, 2012, a 43-30 loss to Clovis.
But this night belonged to Clovis North (23-4), state ranked at No. 13, securing its first win over the Golden Eagles in 22 tries.
In a defensive-minded game the Broncos never led, it was Taylor Pilot’s steal and layup in the final minutes that gave Clovis North its first lead at 36-34.
Grace Webb and Pilot would score the Broncos’ final two baskets.
Clovis North junior guard Savannah Tucker, already the school’s all-time leading scorer, led the team with 15 points, seven rebounds, three blocks and two steals.
“Throughout the game we reminded each other that we belong on the floor with them,” Tucker said. “Winning this game was huge but it was only a small step to achieving our overall goal. It was a great feeling knowing that after all these years we are finally able to compete at their level.”
For Clovis West, while winning its 14th straight TRAC championship all under head coach Craig Campbell, the game came down to execution as the Golden Eagles scored a season-low 36 points, 13 by USC bound Maddie Campbell.
“We didn’t finish possessions and had too many blown opportunities,” Campbell said about the game where both teams combined to shoot 1-21 from the 3-point line. “Anytime you play teams in the Top 20 in the state you have to finish possessions.”
The 2018-19 season has been an extremely strong one for the two teams, both ranked in the Top 15 all season by Cal-Hi Sports.
Clovis North’s four losses on the year are to state No. 3 Etiwanda 60-52, No. 8 Miramonte 75-71, No. 12 Carondelet 58-55, and Clovis West 69-61 on Jan. 18.
Clovis West’s other two losses are to Missouri’s No. 2 ranked team Incarnate Word 56-47 at the Iolani Classic in Hawaii and 48-47 to Montverde Academy, Florida’s No. 2 team.
Awarded the No. 1 and 2 seeds respectively, Clovis West and Clovis North appear headed for another epic showdown in the Division I Central Section finals, held at Selland Arena on Feb. 23 at 6:00 p.m.
In all, the TRAC received the top five seeds with No. 3 Clovis (20-9), No. 4 Buchanan (19-9), No. 5 Central (17-8) and Clovis East (8-19) at No. 11.