The 2020 Central Section Open Division girls basketball playoffs will have a familiar feel for all teams involved.
This year, the top four teams who finished in the TRAC occupy the four Open Division spots in the girls basketball bracket:
- No. 4 Buchanan at No. 1 Clovis West
- No. 3 Clovis at No. 2 Clovis North
The semifinal matchups take place this Saturday at the school of the higher seed, with the final set for Feb.29 at Selland Arena.
It’s the first year the Central Section has an Open Division for basketball, after the California Interscholastic Federation approved a two-year pilot program for the format during the 2019 off-season. As a result, all four girls teams – Buchanan, Clovis, Clovis North and Clovis West – have already qualified for the State tournament upon their selection to Open Division.
Yet only one can claim the first-ever Central Section Open Division girls basketball crown. And we are guaranteed it will be a school from Clovis Unified to do so.
In this preview of the Open Division girls’ semifinals, the Clovis Roundup has compiled a preview of each girls team headed into playoffs, an overview of their season and what to expect from each squad in Saturday’s games.
No. 4 seed Buchanan Bears (18-10 record)
Head Coach: Adam Wall (3rd year as head coach)
Signature win: 66-58 over Clovis on Jan. 31
Next Game: at No.1 seed Clovis West, 3:00 pm Saturday
Season Overview: Buchanan finished up 4th in the final TRAC standings and managed a difficult non-conference slate to secure the Open Division’s No.4 seed. The Bears won the Redwood High tournament to open the season, defeated Southern Section powers Burroughs and Santa Monica on the road, and won the Kiwanis New Years Classic tournament in their home gym. Finishing 5-5 in TRAC play put them middle of the pack in the conference, but a win over Clovis at home on Jan. 31 made a statement for Wall’s Bears to be included in the Open Division.
Matchup X-Factor: Head coach Adam Wall is proud of his team’s ability to adapt on offense. If opponents stack the paint and run zone defense, the Bears counter with shooting from the perimeter. Junior forward Reagan Stermer is a spot-up shooter and dangerous from beyond the arc. Senior guard Morgan Mathis combines marksman-like range with ball handling to provide another threat. The Bears can score inside if the defense crowds the perimeter; Forwards Ashtyn Arnold and Sara Snider have ability to finish at the hoop while showing flashes of range from downtown.
Overall, the Bears offense is capable of stringing together long runs, like the one that put the Bears ahead by 12 at halftime against Clovis West on Jan. 21. Buchanan went on to lose to Clovis West, but the Bears had the defending Central Section champions sweating throughout the game with pressure defense. The upset is possible for Buchanan Saturday, if their offense gets on another roll and their defense forces turnovers to pick up points on the fast break.
No.3 seed Clovis Cougars (21-8 record)
Head Coach: Greg Clark (5th year as head coach)
Signature Win: 77-65 over Clovis North on Jan. 17
Next Game: at No. 2 seed Clovis North, 6:00 pm Saturday
Season Overview: Head coach Greg Clark stated his Cougars played “the most difficult non-conference schedule in the Central Section” this season. Clovis managed a 14-4 record through the non-conference slate, including wins against Yosemite, Memorial, Hanford and La Costa Canyon. In TRAC play, the Cougars split the season series with Buchanan and Clovis North, proving themselves to be among the conference’s best teams and securing the No.3 Open Division seed for Clark’s squad.
Matchup X-Factor: The seniors Avery Evans and Chloe Van Ness can score in bunches. Evans – a four-year varsity player for Clovis – is the top scorer in the Cougars’ lineup. Evans is capable of slashing and driving into the lane for a layup, as well as staying outside and knocking down a few mid-range or three-point jumpers. The true three-point threat is Chloe Van Ness, who might very well be the best shooter in these Open Division girls basketball playoffs. Van Ness consistently finds open looks from three-point range and drains shots from long distance; she can single handedly take over a game for the Cougars.
Clovis relies on its two senior leaders to fuel this offense, along with some inside scoring from senior forward Peyton Miller and leadership from senior point guard Kelsey Delgado. These players have competed together throughout their high school careers and their experience as a unit will prove useful in playoffs.
The Cougars pulled out a 77-65 contest against North on Jan. 17 with stingy defense and scoring contributions from the bench. If Clovis can gameplan to limit the impact of Clovis North star Savannah Tucker, as well as establish scoring from its senior starters and bench players both, then the Cougars have a solid chance to reach Selland for Open Division finals.
No. 2 seed Clovis North Broncos (21-7 record)
Head coach: Heather Long (8th year as head coach)
Signature Win: 71-33 over Clovis on Feb. 4
Next Game: vs No. 3 seed Clovis, 6:00 pm Saturday
Season Overview: A year after it met Clovis West in the Division-1 Central Section championship game, Clovis North returned nine players to its roster, including all-time program scoring leader and Long Beach State commit Savannah Tucker. Clovis North began the season with a 10-1 record, including wins over eventual L.A. City Open Division No.1 seed Palisades and Maryland prep school National Christian Academy. The rest of December included wins over Northern California basketball powers St. Mary’s (Stockton) and Cardinal Newman.
After the Broncos’ loaded non-conference slate, the Broncos lost its first two of three games in the TRAC to Clovis West at home and Clovis on the road. Clovis North recovered to win its last seven of eight games – including a 71-33 rout at home against Clovis – to finish second in the TRAC standings.
Matchup X-Factor: Savannah Tucker makes everything go on offense for the Broncos. Opposing coaches in the Valley know full well the scoring threat Tucker has become over the years. In her four years at Clovis North, she has racked up over 2,000 points to become the most prolific scorer in school history. Tucker is crafty in scoring with the angles the defense gives her, banking shots off the backboard or knocking down jump shots from mid-range and three-point range. Tucker’s backcourt mate Rowan Hein has proven capable of being a second option scoring along with senior forward Laney Amundsen, who is a presence in the paint on both ends of the floor.
However, when Tucker has a tough game scoring or gets into foul trouble, the Broncos offense falters and Clovis North digs itself into a deep hole. It’s a situation which happened when Clovis North lost at Clovis on Jan, 17. Tucker will need to bring her best in her last games as a Bronco to make a run at Selland glory.
No.1 seed Clovis West Golden Eagles (25-4 record)
Head Coach: Craig Campbell (15th year as head coach)
Signature Win: 65-51 over Clovis on Jan. 24
Next Game: vs No.4 seed Buchanan, 3:00pm Saturday
Season Overview: The seven-time Central Section champions picked up right where they left off to start the season, winning its first nine games and first place at the Nike Central Valley Showdown. The Golden Eagles split games at preseason tournaments in Myrtle Beach, SC, and San Diego, finishing with a 2-2 record at each. Since suffering their last loss on Dec. 27, Campbell’s squad has reeled off 14 straight wins to sweep the TRAC and secure the No.1 seed in the Central Section Open Division. A five-point win at Buchanan on Jan. 21, where the Golden Eagles overcame a 12-point halftime deficit, was the closest call to Clovis West’s undefeated conference run.
Matchup X-Factor: Clovis West’s full court defense forces turnovers and ignites the fast break. Against a Campbell-coached team, an opponent will face nonstop pressure every foot of the basketball court. Nothing changes with this year’s Clovis West squad. They’ve beaten each team in the Open Division bracket twice with their full-court press that converts points off turnovers. Take note of Clovis West’s last game against Buchanan on Feb. 7, when the Golden Eagles limited the Bears to five points in the entire second half. For Clovis West, their defense is the spark which leads to offense.
When the Golden Eagles sets up their half-court offense, junior guard Nikki Tom thrives. Tom has the ability to find open driving lanes and get to the rim with ease. Aaliyah Suell is an athletic guard who can rebound and score points in the paint. Justyce Harris, a junior forward, is another solid rebounder and stopgap on defense. Alexa Silva and Alexis Hernandez each shoot the ball well from the perimeter, especially in transition. Overall, Clovis West brings a lot of weapons into these playoffs; the team has to stick to the winning formula for a chance at yet another Valley ring.