In sports there’s nothing like experience, and boy, did it come in handy for Clovis West in a clash of state ranked teams.
The Golden Eagles, ranked No. 8 by Cal-Hi Sports, extended its league winning streak to 64 behind a trio of seasoned seniors in a 69-61 home win over a talented and hungry Clovis North squad. With the win, Clovis West improves to 20-2 on the season and 4-0 in league in a game that featured 10 lead changes.
“Just in league itself the intensity is always revved up,” Clovis West coach Craig Campbell said. “These kids have been playing against each other since the fourth grade, but you add a whole different level to it when you’re talking about two of the top 13 teams in the state.
“When you add great basketball and great players on both sides you’re going to have a heck of a game.”
A heck of a game is right, with no less than eight total players who will be playing college basketball in the future, the headliner being Clovis West’s USC-bound Maddie Campbell –– the Nike headband-wearing coach’s daughter who poured in 31 points (and four 3s), to go along with 11 rebounds and six assists.
The bigger the game, the better for Campbell, the school’s all-time leader in points who sports an incredible 116-12 four-year win/loss record and a state title in 2017.
“I love big games, even if they are cheering against us I love the noise,” Campbell said. “I can’t play in a silent gym.”
After Clovis West opened with a 15-11 first quarter lead, Clovis North (16-4 3-1) bounded back behind junior Savannah Tucker and senior Taylor Pilot, taking a 31-27 lead with 51 seconds in the half.
After Campbell converted a layup to cut the Broncos lead to two, Pilot was fouled with one second left and missed the first free throw before making the second.
However, one second was enough for the savvy Campbell, letting the inbounds pass from Champney Pulliam bounce until half court before picking it up, rising in one motion, and swishing a 35-footer at the buzzer.
“I was just trying to hit the rim,” the school’s all-time leading three-point scorer said with a smile.
Even so, it was Clovis North who came out fired up for the second half, opening a 40-35 advantage two minutes into the half on a Grace Webb layup, prompting a Clovis West time out.
On cue, the Golden Eagles screamed back and took the lead for good at 42-40 on a three-pointer from Pulliam from the right corner, her sweet spot, with 4:40 left in the quarter.
Aari Sanders, rounding out the senior trio who have played together since fourth grade, buried a corner three-pointer as the shot clock expired off a pass from Campbell, extending to a 67-61 lead with 28 seconds left in the game.
“You expect the seniors to do that,” Campbell said. “I challenged them when we were down five and they did, the seniors made plays when we needed them.”
Sanders finished with 18 points and Pulliam 12 for Clovis West.
For Clovis North Pilot scored 16, Tucker 14, Webb 12 and Rowan Hein 10.
This senior class for Clovis West, which also includes Miciah Lee, is on pace to break the Central Section record of 119. They already have three TRAC and three D-I Central Section titles, one CIF State Open championship and a No. 1 national ranking (in 2017).
“Tonight we showed some resilience and toughness,” Campbell said. “We didn’t play a great game but part of that has to do with them [Clovis North]. We showed the maturity of who we are.”
The two teams meet again on Feb. 4 at Clovis North.