By Paul Meadors | Sports Editor
Unless you’ve been sleeping under a rock for the past two months I’m sure you’ve heard about the Clovis West girls basketball team. Led by five remarkable seniors in Sarah Bates, Bre’yanna Sanders, Tess Amundsen, Danae Marquez, Megan Anderson, who have signed to go Division I, and sophomore Madison Campbell with multiple D-I offers as well, they have turned heads all around the country with their 14-1 start, taking on all challengers, including winning the prestigious Nike Tournament of Champions top division in December.
Well, their work on the court has not gone unnoticed in state and national polls as the Golden Eagles are now the state’s No. 1 ranked team by Cal-Hi Sports and also ranked No. 1 in the USA Today computer rankings. They are No. 2 in both USA Today’s expert rankings and ESPNW Power 25. Impressive considering most of the top programs in the nation are private schools.
“People ask about the pressure but we have such a high expectation of ourselves that if we perform at a high level it will all take care of itself,” said head coach Craig Campbell about the rankings and attention. “We don’t feel pressure because we are not coaching to rankings. We are just doing what we are doing and that’s why we are staying successful.”
This remarkable girls’ team is unquestionably elite. Coach Campbell scheduled one of the toughest schedules in the nation, and it’s paid off. They’ve traveled to Hawaii, Arizona and up and down the state in one-day trips, not shying away from the challenge of the difficult schedule. In the Nike TOC they beat four nationally ranked teams in four days including Centennial of Nevada, a team they’ll play again at the Martin Luther King Showdown on Jan. 16 at St. Mary’s in Stockton. In the three showcase games leading up to league play, Clovis West won by an average of 33 points.
What is the secret to their success? With elite teams and programs there’s a common thread; a combination of talent, hard work, coaching, support and trust. I’m sure you can think of many teams loaded with talent but never seem to put it all together. Why is that? Well, one or more of those ingredients was most likely missing.
Campbell has been able to mold this team into a group that never takes anything for granted and is never satisfied. For instance, they got home from Miramonte after midnight after beating Sacred Heart Cathedral Prep 75-55 and had a two and half hour practice the next morning at 8:00 a.m. Add to the fact that every member of the team is valued; no one is thought more highly than anyone else and that equals success. Coach Campbell ensures this, he expects the same mentality from everyone on the team, whether it’s the starting five or the last three on the bench. And if you look at the box scores and you’ll rarely see a Clovis West player score over 20 points – they’ll be bunched up, five or six players will score between 10-15 points. Team basketball at its finest.
And finally, they’re a fun team to watch. They play hard, smart, can shoot the heck out of the ball, make the extra pass – all the little things that make basketball a great game to watch. The team also features senior Liz Parker, juniors Ana Maldonado, Briana Robles, Makayla Warren and Ava Emerzian, sophomores Aari’yanna Sanders, Champney Pulliam and Miciah Lee. They open up league play against Clovis North at home on Jan. 13.