By Paul Meadors, Sports Editor
After spiting two amazing games during league play, this one was for all the marbles – a Division 1 Central Section championship.
And as the No. 1 ranked Clovis North Broncos took the court against No. 2 seeded Central Grizzlies, there was a sense of urgency on the faces of the Grizzlies. Simply put: They didn’t want to get beat.
Using a strong performance from 6’7” senior Chris Seeley (17 points, 19 rebounds and three emphatic dunks), the Grizzlies struck quick and true, beating the Broncos 77-64 in front of approximately 6,000 screaming fans at Selland Arena.
After a hot 6-0 start to the game the Grizzlies (22-6) would never relinquish the lead and with the ghost of a poor performance still in their collective memory, it was a burning loss to Clovis North in their gym that fueled the fire.
“I’ve been talking about three things: focus, discipline and execution,” said Central coach Greg Streets. “Ever since that loss to Clovis North, that loss has been our primary focus. We took it personal.”
That loss opened the door for Clovis North (20-9) to share a TRAC title with Central.
And it was a rejuvenated Jaylon Johnson, who has multiple Division 1 football scholarship offers, who was a blur on the court driving and dishing and playing superior defense.
Johnson finished with 11 points, eight assists, two steals and two blocks and sophomore sharpshooter Cam’Ron Wilson made five of eight three-pointers on his way to 25 points.
The Grizzlies opened up their biggest lead in the game at 48-29 with 4:02 left in the third quarter but the Broncos, behind senior guard Jahvon Johnson, cut the lead to six at 56-62 in the fourth with 2:26 left.
The Grizzlies would end the game on a 15-7 run and celebrate the school’s first Central Section title in Division 1.
Johnson would score 24 points for the Broncos to lead the team. Elijah Straughter, drawing the tough assignment of guarding Seeley, scored 14 points and Ben Avera scored 13.
Senior Jonah Brown, a mainstay on offense for Clovis North, was held scoreless, clearly hobbled from an ankle injury suffered in the semi-final game against Centennial.
Broncos head coach Tony Amundsen, seeking his first title with Clovis North after leading Bullard to three straight in 2011-14 pointed to some intangibles as the reason for his team’s poor performance.
“We actually out-rebounded them in our earlier games but tonight we gave up 14 offensive rebounds to our four,” Amundsen said. “And we needed to take better angles guarding the ball.”
Case in point: four Bronco players fouled out of the game.
But all is not lost in a season where they won an out of section tournament, a share of the TRAC title and get to experience the state playoffs.
“Our kids have done an outstanding job this season,” said Amundsen after the game. “They’ve worked hard every day to get where they’re at and now we get to play in the state playoffs so this is a great experience. I’m proud of them.”