With a Clovis North girls basketball team full of seniors looking to end their careers with a Valley championship ring, experience and passion are not in short supply for the Broncos.
Both virtues were on full display as Clovis North edged Clovis 68-65 in a game not decided until the final seconds. With the win, the Broncos punched their ticket to the Open Division Valley championships at Selland Arena next weekend.
“You can’t simulate those [late-game] moments in practice, but our team has played in a lot of close games this season,” Clovis North head coach Heather Long said. “The preseason schedule really helped us.”
Clovis North would be in store for a close contest against Clovis High, another hungry senior-laden team with experience and talent. Clovis and Clovis North split their last two meetings this season, adding extra intrigue to the rubber match to decide the Open Division girls basketball finalist.
Through the first half, both teams traded bucket for bucket, tied at 16 after the first quarter and drawing even at 36 headed into halftime.
The third quarter saw big production from Clovis North’s Laney Amundsen and Rowan Hein. Amundsen and Hein held their own in the paint, combining for 12 points to guide the Broncos to a 57-51 lead headed into the fourth quarter.
Clovis would not go quietly in the final period, setting the game up for a memorable ending.
The Cougars went on a 9-0 run to take a 60-57 lead with 4:22 left in the game, yet Clovis North fought back to take a 67-63 lead in the final minute.
Clovis cut the lead in half with a steal and layup, then on the next Clovis possession, junior guard Kiley Butchert drove into the paint to tie the game at 67.
Her layup was good – until it was called off due to an offensive foul.
Clovis North missed a free throw on its end and Clovis rebounded, giving the Cougars one final chance to tie the game with four seconds left.
Instead, the inbounds pass went out of bounds, effectively ending the Cougars’ chances at the upset.
In their losing effort, the Cougars were led in scoring by Butchert with 15 points. Senior Kelsey Delgado chipped in 12 points for Clovis, who now await seeding in the State tournament.
For Clovis North, Laney Amundsen led the Broncos with 20 points, with Savannah Tucker and Rowan Hein contributing 16 each.
More so than their stat lines, the composure of the Clovis North trio was crucial to the Broncos’ narrow victory over the Cougars Saturday.
“Our team stayed under control… we came in, we were calm about it and I think that’s what led to the win,” Tucker said.
Up next for Clovis North is the seven-time Section champion Clovis West Golden Eagles.
“[Clovis West] will always bring their best, so we are going to bring our best and it will be a fun night next Saturday,” Long said.