The Clovis West girls’ basketball team showed off their gritty side Wednesday evening, watching an 11-point lead in the second half disappear before coming back to defeat the Folsom Bulldogs, 51-48.
Then, Clovis West head coach Craig Campbell showed off his “griddy” side by performing the popular dance move after the game. Campbell promised his players he would perform the dance if the Golden Eagles won another Central Section championship. They delivered last Saturday, defeating Bakersfield, 49-39, so he kept his end of the bargain.
The No. 3 seed Golden Eagles (28-3) danced their way into the semifinals of the CIF State Open Division NorCal regional bracket. Up next is a trip to No. 2 Archbishop Mitty (28-1) on Saturday.
The last time Clovis West and Archbishop Mitty met in girls’ basketball, Campbell and the Golden Eagles walked off the court as the 2017 Open Division state champion.
“I was talking to [Mitty head coach] Sue Phillips and I was like, ‘Last time I had five days of prep and it wasn’t enough. If we both win, now I got two,’” Campbell said. “Mitty is one of the top programs in the state and country, so we’re looking forward to it. That’s what we want to do – play the best and see where we fall.”
Wednesday’s win over No. 6 seed Folsom marked the sixth straight trip to the Open Division Elite Eight for Clovis West. It did not come easy against a Folsom team that featured the same toughness and defensive intensity that Clovis West is known for.
Two early fouls for star junior Etoyah Montgomery hampered Clovis West, which fell behind 11-8 after the first quarter. Sophomore Athena Tomlinson led a resurgent second quarter with nine points in the period and 11 total before halftime. She hit a pair of 3-pointers to help Clovis West take a 27-22 lead into the break.
The lead ballooned to 39-28 in the third quarter as Montgomery returned and provided an immediate boost offensively. However, Folsom went on an 18-6 run deep into the fourth quarter to take the lead, 46-45, with 4:50 left.
Clovis West surrendered just one Folsom bucket the rest of the way, but Montgomery almost fouled out with two minutes left as Clovis West clung to a 47-46 lead.
It was a case of mistaken identity. The referee switched the foul from No. 23, Montgomery, to No. 22, Riley Walls.
Moments later, Montgomery hit a 3-pointer to extend the lead to 50-46.
In the final seconds, Tomlinson made one of two free throws, and Folsom raced down the court with the chance to send the game into overtime with a 3-pointer. But Walls intercepted a Folsom pass with four seconds left and dribbled out the clock.
After big plays from its dynamic duo, Montgomery and Tomlinson, Clovis West secured a state playoff victory with the quick hands of the freshman Walls.
“Riley is going to be another special one down the road,” Campbell said.
Montgomery finished with 19 points and 13 rebounds, Tomlinson added 15 points, and Walls chipped in six rebounds to her game-sealing steal.
“Etoyah and Athena both had moxie with the shots they hit and the big 3-pointers they had,” Campbell said. “It’s different in that moment, in a one-point game in the playoffs. Some kids choke… but those two are big-time players. Starters are supposed to shine in the playoffs.”
Clovis West got gritty – not griddy – and set its date with Mitty.