Four quarters were not enough to decide a champion of the Clovis West Nike Invitational Saturday night.
Neither was five or six enough, either.
Instead, it took three overtimes, but the Clovis West Golden Eagles defeated the Clovis North Broncos, 102-94, in an instant classic won by the tournament hosts but not necessarily dominated by them.
The Golden Eagles won their first Nike Invitational boys’ basketball championship since 2017 and improved to a perfect 10-0 record, admittedly by the skin of their own teeth.
“[Clovis North] deserved the game, I think, more than we did,” said Clovis West head coach Vance Walberg. “I thought they played harder than we did tonight, which hurts me.
“Sometimes, it’s better to be lucky than good, and we were lucky tonight.”
There were so many chances for the game to slip away from Clovis West. The Golden Eagles trailed by as much as 16 in the third quarter, roared back to tie it up, only to fall behind by five, 62-57, with under five minutes left in the fourth.
Clovis West battled back, tied the game again, and had an answer for every Clovis North score. When freshman Bronco Loukas Jones connected on a right-handed floater to take a 68-66 lead with 37 seconds left, Clovis West’s Trey Carr laid one up to send the game into overtime.
It appeared Clovis West’s “luck” ran out in the first overtime when Clovis North, holding onto a 78-76 lead, gave the inbounds pass to Jaylen Bryant with 14 seconds remaining and four seconds left on the shot clock. Bryant’s layup attempt got wedged between the backboard and rim, resulting in a jump ball and granting possession to Clovis North with a reset shot clock.
Clovis West was forced to foul, and Clovis North had a chance to ice the game with two free throws.
The first free throw attempt missed, and Clovis West sent the game into a second overtime with a layup from 6-foot-7 senior Tyus Parrish-Tillman.
The second overtime was full of twists and turns, with three buckets to either tie or take the lead made between both teams in the final 40 seconds. Two of those shots came from Clovis West junior Issac Martinez, who led the Golden Eagles with 31 points.
Clovis North, once again, came painfully close to winning at the end of the second overtime – this time, inches away.
The Broncos had one last shot with 0.6 seconds remaining, and Niko Jones put his inbounds pass in the perfect spot for an unguarded, leaping Jordan Espinoza to tip it in. His momentum carried him too far and his shot was too strong as the game entered triple overtime.
Clovis West pulled away in the seventh period to win the first of at least three battles this season between the Tri-River Athletic Conference rivals. Clovis North (6-1), along with West, is considered a favorite to compete in the Open Division playoffs, so a fourth matchup isn’t entirely out of the question.
As for the first meeting Saturday night, a momentum-shifting third quarter made the difference. The Broncos dominated the first half and the early part of the third quarter, their leading scorer Connor Amundsen scoring 15 of his game-high 33 points before halftime.
But Clovis West went on a 15-2 run in the third as Clovis North was called for eight fouls compared to zero for Clovis West.
“When it’s eight-zero [for fouls],” said Clovis North head coach Tony Amundsen, “Clovis West can be more aggressive because they have zero fouls, and now Clovis West is in the bonus, so it has a huge influence on the game. It completely changes your defense, the way you guard them, your aggressiveness, and then allows them to be more aggressive.”
Foul trouble coupled with turnovers doomed the Broncos, but as much as Saturday night was about what Clovis North didn’t do, Clovis West’s new stars also stepped up and seized the moment. Along with Martinez’s 31, Parrish-Tillman scored 25 points, Carr scored 15, and Zack Chauhan chipped in 10.
“The beauty about this team is that the last four years, we relied on Cole [Anderson] to bounce out of holes all the time,” Walberg said. “Now we don’t have Cole, so one night it might be Issac, one night it might be Tyus, one night it might be Marshel [Sanders] or Trey or Jackson [Young]. We have a little bit more balance, but we have to become a lot more consistent.”