When the shots weren’t falling in the first half, the Clovis West Golden Eagles turned to their swarming defense to get the job done and secure another outright TRAC girls’ basketball title.
The 17th consecutive league title for head coach Craig Campbell’s crew, to be exact.
A third quarter scoring surge separated the Golden Eagles from the host Buchanan Bears, helping the nine-time defending Central Section champs close out a 68-41 victory Tuesday.
Clovis West extended its winning streak to 11 games and improved its record to 24-3 and 8-0 in Tri-River Athletic Conference play. The Golden Eagles also won their 33rd straight game over a TRAC opponent, including playoffs.
Obviously, Clovis West has a lot of streaks going on. Campbell said starting a streak isn’t the hard part; maintaining it, through wave after wave of fresh faces, is.
“With 17 different senior classes, trying to get the buy-in and commitment is a lot of work,” Campbell said. “The last time Clovis West didn’t win a Valley championship, our seniors were seven, eight years old. When you put that into perspective, you wonder – are they still hungry? Or do they take it for granted?”
Clovis West started slow offensively, and Buchanan (16-11, 6-3 TRAC), fresh off a double-overtime road win at Central, made it a game in the first half.
The Bears took a brief 23-21 lead with under four minutes left until halftime.
“[Buchanan] came out and hit us in the mouth,” Campbell said. “It took a second for us to realize and settle in. We were impatient. We have so many kids in new roles, and we’ve been trying to get them to mature all year.”
Junior Etoyah Montgomery, who led Clovis West with 20 points, said this season has been among her favorite TRAC championship runs because of the team’s youth. Outside Montgomery, the Golden Eagles have run with four new starters all season.
“This is actually very impressive,” Montgomery said. “I feel like people are underestimating us because yeah, we are young. So they think they can just come out, but we’re young with a lot of talent, and we play hard.”
Sophomore guard Ariyah Smith, one of Clovis West’s youthful starters, erased the Bears’ lead when she knocked down an open 3-pointer. Montgomery was right there with the assist.
The Golden Eagles never trailed again. They closed the first half on a 7-0 run for a 28-23 halftime lead and outscored Buchanan 40-18 in the second half.
The offense turned it around with some help from stingy defense.
“Our first row and our pressure and everything – I think our defense fired it up,” Montgomery said. “Then we just started hitting each other on good looks, good layups, and-ones, and hyping each other up.”
With a win over Clovis High in the regular season finale, Clovis West can finish undefeated in league play for the 14th time in 17 seasons.