The comeback kids did it again.
Trailing by 16 points after the first quarter, the Clovis West boys’ basketball team hustled back, hit key shots in a back-and-forth fourth quarter, and triumphed over the Sheldon Huskies on Wednesday, 63-55.
The situation was not as dire for NorCal No. 2 seed Clovis West (31-1) as its previous game, in which St. Joseph led by 20 in the third quarter of the Central Section Open Division title game.
Yet head coach Vance Walberg saw the same early-game issues hurt the Golden Eagles Wednesday like in the past. Except this time, the stakes were higher in the quarterfinal round of the state boys’ basketball Open Division.
“I just try and figure out how we keep getting down,” Walberg said, “and I know part of the reason is when you’re young, which we are, each kid is trying to feel their own feet because I play with 10 to 11 kids.”
The depth of Clovis West, however, doubled as the catalyst for the comeback. Sheldon, the No. 7 seed in the NorCal bracket, learned the same lesson as Clovis North, Central, and St. Joseph did. All three teams led Clovis West by double digits in the third quarter this season – and lost.
These Golden Eagles, when at full strength, seemingly don’t know how to lose. The constant substitutions by Walberg and hustle plays on offense and defense eventually broke down the Huskies as it did the Broncos, Grizzlies, and Knights.
“One thing that has always been our favorite is, we always try to wear people down,” Walberg said.
The Huskies’ lead dwindled from 24-8 after the first quarter to 32-25 at halftime. The gym roared as Clovis West senior Tyus Parrish-Tillman ended the third quarter with a turnaround jumper that cut Sheldon’s lead to 44-42.
The Huskies did not go quietly. Senior Rashaud Bradley kept Sheldon ahead, 50-44, with 5:20 left. Clovis West junior Issac Martinez answered with two buckets in less than a minute, and with 2:48 left, the game was tied when sophomore Marshel Sanders laid one up off an assist from Parrish-Tillman.
Parrish-Tillman pushed the Golden Eagles ahead with two free throws at the 2:07 mark, their first lead of the game, and sophomore Jackson Young hit two from the line to extend the lead.
Then, with 33 seconds left, Young delivered the same finishing blow he did against St. Joseph last week, draining a 3-pointer to seal a state playoff victory for Clovis West.
Parrish-Tillman led Clovis West with 20 points and three blocks, and Martinez scored 16. Bradley led the Huskies with 15 points.
The young and scrappy Golden Eagles kept their dream season alive. They will host the No. 3 seeded Modesto Christian Crusaders (28-5), led by highly recruited sophomore Jamari Phillips, on Saturday in the NorCal regional semifinal.