Just when it looked like Clovis West (31-4) was headed to another state title game, the wheels came off at the most inopportune time.
Bolting to a 37-17 lead early in the second quarter, a determined Sierra Canyon squad chipped away, outscoring Clovis West 39-24 in the second half to defeat the top-seed 74-70 at Buchanan High.
“We got tired and all of a sudden they went on a quick run to cut it to 15 and I felt the momentum change there,” Clovis West coach Craig Campbell said about the second quarter. “I felt us get a little tight and tired and felt [Sierra Canyon] get their spark back.”
Clovis West upped its lead to 37-17 with 5:27 left in the half on a Campbell 3-pointer from the top of the key, but foul trouble from reliable rebounders Sanders and Harris caused rotation issues as the Trailblazers finished the half on an 18-11 run.
The Golden Eagles held a 46-35 halftime lead, but Sierra Canyon (32-1) clamped down on defense in the second half, holding the normally efficient Golden Eagles to seven field goals and only one 3-pointer after hitting eight in the first half.
That’s when Clovis West had trouble containing guard Ashley Chevalier, who scored 18 points, while 6-foot-3 Amanda Olinger controlled the inside.
The second half was a stunning development for Clovis West, especially after the Golden Eagles outscored the Trailblazers 25-12 in the first behind Campbell (7 points), Aari’yanna Sanders (6) and Champney Pulliam (5), and sophomores Nikki Tom (5) and Justyce Harris (2).
Campbell scored 14 of her 23 points in the first half, including four 3-pointers. However, the USC-bound senior picked up her fourth foul late in the third quarter.
“She’s was definitely the focus of our defense,” Sierra Canyon coach Alicia Komaki said.
“We tried to cut it to ten at half but Clovis West is unselfish — that’s why they are such a great team,” Komaki said. “We could have easily lost by 40.”.
The Trailblazers came out smoking in the third, taking a 57-56 at the end of the period and a 61-56 lead late in the fourth. But Clovis West fought back to take a 63-61 lead on Sanders’ left-handed scoop layup.
Sierra Canyon eventually pulled away for the four-point win, advancing to the Open Division championship game at Golden 1 Center on Saturday, March 9.
Sanders finished with 15 points, Tom scored ten and sophomore Kendall Jackson hit two 3-pointers for six points.
Thus ends a remarkable run for four-year varsity players Campbell, Sanders and Pulliam, the winningest class in Central Section history, boys or girls, at 127-14 with four TRAC and Central Section titles, three trips to the SoCal Open Division finals and a 2017 Open Division championship.
“I have been blessed to put on a Clovis West jersey since my freshman year,” Maddie Campbell said, who finishes her career as the the school’s all-time leader in points, 3-pointers and assists. “Basketball is more than just a sport, it’s a family.”
Pops was hoping to cap an incredible four-year span with his record-breaking daughter but understands the result doesn’t have to match the journey.
“In a couple of days they’ll reflect on what an amazing season they had,” Craig Campbell added. “It stings, but in the big picture they had a tremendous season.”