For Clovis North, heading into a packed Clovis East gym Friday night and facing a motivated Timberwolves squad would be no easy task.
Clovis North junior AK Okereke knew the Broncos could escape Wolf Pack Den with a win if the team made a commitment pre-game.
“We knew we had to stick together and try to not do our own thing, but do what’s best for the team,” Okereke said.
Teamwork made the dream work for the Broncos, who left Clovis East with a hard-fought 61-56 win decided in the final minute. The win improves Clovis North’s record to 18-7 and 5-2 in TRAC boys basketball play.
What the Broncos’ impressive record doesn’t indicate is the strength in numbers that makes Tony Amundsen’s squad so challenging to beat, even when they’re on the road in a tough environment.
“A lot of guys who don’t usually get a lot of minutes stepped up and played well tonight,” Amundsen said. “We had to go deep in our rotation and those guys did a great job. Tonight was a total team effort.”
It would take more than a team effort to stop Clovis East’s Jermal Pittman, who enjoyed a piping hot start shooting.
Pittman showed why he’s among the best guards in the section with a plethora of scoring moves inside the paint and from the perimeter, totaling 15 points in the first half.
The Timberwolves senior played with all the bells and whistles, yet it was the referee’s whistle which hurt Clovis North most in the second quarter.
The Broncos got into foul trouble after getting down 20-15 at the end of the first quarter.
Clovis North starters Sammy Al-Saber and Okereke had to sit for much of the second quarter due to fouls, yet the bench stepped up in their place and kept the Timberwolves at arm’s length. Clovis East led 32-30 at halftime.
“Despite the foul trouble, we knew we had to keep playing our game, no matter who’s out there,” Okereke said. “We are confident in the 19 guys we have coming off the bench.”
Once the third quarter arrived, Clovis North pushed ahead for the lead, guided by scoring from all over the court. Starting center Terri Miller chipped in six points in the quarter, senior David Opoku-Ababio chipped in four, and Al-Saber and Malachi Henry knocked down key three-pointers.
With the balanced scoring effort, the Broncos turned their slight halftime deficit into a close 48-45 lead heading into the fourth quarter.
Pittman nearly willed the Timberwolves to a win late, scoring nine points in the fourth quarter to keep Clovis East within one score.
Yet Clovis North never trailed in the final period, as Okereke sunk two big free throws with 18 seconds left in regulation to seal the Broncos’ season sweep of the Timberwolves.
Miller finished with a team-high 16 points for Clovis North, while Pittman led the Timberwolves’ near-comeback with a game-high 24 points.
For Clovis East, Friday was another tough loss decided in the game’s closing moments.
“We played well today yet at the end, we just didn’t get it to go our way,” Clovis East senior Tyler Pacheco said. “A roll away, a possession away, a tipped call away from beating anybody in the Valley. We’ll be ready for [Clovis] West on Tuesday.”
Clovis East (15-10) welcomes the Golden Eagles to the Wolf Pack Den, while Clovis North (18-7) plays host to Clovis High Tuesday.