Craig Campbell is used to the challengers for the crown. Winning seven straight Central Section girls basketball titles will put a target on your back.
Yet the head coach of the prestigious Clovis West girls basketball program embraces the fact that he will get the best from every team, every night. He knew he’d expect such from a Clovis High squad that was coming in Friday state-ranked and undefeated in the TRAC.
It would be another regular-season test of Clovis West’s section supremacy.
And once again, the Golden Eagles soared over the competition.
Junior guard Nikki Tom led the charge with a team-high 13 points as Clovis West took down the visiting Cougars 65-51 Friday to take sole possession of first place in the TRAC girls basketball standings.
“The goal for the last 15 years I’ve been coaching is to go 5-0 in the first round of TRAC play and put pressure on everyone else,” Campbell said. “It’s really good to get those first five games checked off and focus on what we need to do down the stretch.”
The first quarter saw Clovis West jump out to a 12-2 lead in the opening minutes. Clovis struggled against Clovis West’s signature full court press, as Clovis turned the ball over often in the midcourt and Clovis West cashed in for points off the turnovers..
Clovis managed to adjust midway through the first quarter and once they were able to set up their offense, the Cougars found success from the perimeter.
Senior Clovis guard Chloe Van Ness made three three-pointers in the first half to shrink Clovis West’s lead to 28-22 at halftime. Then, in the third quarter, she knocked down three more treys to close the gap further to 47-42 headed into the fourth quarter.
Van Ness finished with a game-high 20 points, none of which would come in the fourth quarter thanks to Clovis West stepping up their defense in the final period.
“It took our kids finally listening [to the gameplan],” Campbell said. “Clovis had a lot of one-shot-and-done possessions, and it allowed us to settle in and get our defensive stops.”
Clovis West shut down the Cougars down the stretch, limiting them to just nine points in the fourth quarter. Clovis West’s trap defense worked effectively in the final minutes, as Clovis’ guards struggled to get open and instead took contested shots.
Conversely, Nikki Tom was finding her groove late in the game for Clovis West, scoring six of her 13 points in the fourth quarter. The Golden Eagles offense had a resurgence in the second half, which Tom attributed to “more ball movement and interior touches for layups.”
With a resurgent offense and stingy defense, Clovis West pulled away from Clovis to secure the Golden Eagles’ 20th win of the season Friday – and with that, Campbell’s eighth consecutive 20-win season.
It is yet another milestone for Campbell and the Golden Eagles, who have set the gold standard for girls hoops in the Central Section.