Clovis West Wins Gritty Defensive Battle for Ninth Straight Central Section Crown

Flashing nine fingers for their nine consecutive Central Section titles, the Clovis West girls’ basketball team celebrates its Open Division championship victory over Clovis on Thursday. (Gabe Camarillo/Clovis Roundup)

In a 2021 girls’ basketball season that looked different due to COVID-19, the end result was familiar — another Clovis West girls’ basketball Central Section championship.

Clovis West defeated Clovis High in a home Open Division matchup Thursday, 53-36, winning the program’s ninth straight Central Section title and second Open crown.

With every passing championship for Clovis West, head coach Craig Campbell said there’s one thing that keeps them feeling like the first title.

“It’s the journey of each team,” Campbell said. “Each one has its own journey and this year, with this crazy COVID year, everybody’s faced a ton of adversity in trying to keep the kids together.”

Senior Nikki Tom, who will play at UC Irvine in the fall, led the Golden Eagles with 15 points. Sophomore Etoyah Montgomery added 13 points and senior Alyssa Kuniyoshi scored 12 points, including three 3-pointers.

Tom, Kuniyoshi, Kendall Jackson, Justyce Harris and Jada Oatman all won their fourth title in four years with the program.

“Going four for four is so amazing,” Tom said. “I love my team, my coaches, everyone. I’m just so proud of my program.”

Tom and the rest of Clovis West’s seniors almost missed their chance at going four for four, with high school indoor sports not approved to play in California until March 5.

“We didn’t even know if we were going to have a season,” Campbell said. “To be able to have a season, have playoffs, have it at home, it’s truly a remarkable thing for these kids and hopefully, they’ll never forget it.”

Ranked as the No. 3 team in the state by Cal-Hi Sports, Clovis West is now 19-0 this season and have won its games by an average margin of 48.5 points. The Golden Eagles have scored 70 or more points in all but three regular season games.

They scored 69 points against then-state No. 3 St. Mary’s of Stockton, and 60 and 59 points against Clovis High, their opponent in the championship game.

“[Clovis head coach] Greg Clark does a great job preparing them,” Campbell said. “Playing that team three times, we knew them well, they knew us well… when you’re that comfortable with the tendencies and the systems of each other, and the personnel of each other, it can turn into a defensive battle.”

Clovis played a mix of man-to-man and zone defense Thursday, depending on what Clovis West was doing on offense. It resulted in a new season-low total for Clovis West, 53 points.

“We were just trying to slow them down,” Clark said. “Clovis West does a good job of moving. We’ve worked on their movements, we worked on their rotation, and they’re very well-prepared so they take advantage of things that we’re doing also.”

Clovis West matched the defensive intensity, forcing multiple turnovers with its full-court press. Clovis scored only six points in the first and third quarters apiece, trailing 44-25 entering the fourth.

Things got interesting as Clovis West went scoreless in the fourth quarter until the 1:36 mark. Clovis closed the gap to single digits, 44-36, before Clovis West pulled away, helped by Tom’s dagger 3-pointer with 43 seconds remaining.

“It was all on my teammate, Kendall [Jackson],” Tom said. “She made that great pass and I made the shot. We do it every day in practice. That’s just our teamwork together.”

For the first time in its nine consecutive Central Section titles, Clovis West celebrated on its home court and cut down the nets.

“Cutting the nets is something new that they haven’t done in 17 years is what Campbell told us,” Kuniyoshi said.

“This is the first group to have a Valley championship on their home floor,” Campbell said. “Somebody mentioned why don’t we do something that these girls have never had the opportunity to do before.”

Clovis West now awaits Southern California regional playoff seeding, with a No. 2 or 3 seed likely in the Open Division.

Gabriel Camarillo has written for the Clovis Roundup since August 2019 and follows high school athletics, Fresno State football and former Clovis Unified student-athletes. Gabe also writes for The Collegian as a staff sports writer and works at One Putt Broadcasting as a board op for 940 ESPN radio.