Strutting their stuff, girls basketball ready for liftoff

No longer can girls basketball be labeled “the other game.”

The girls of the TRAC definitely have something to say about that.

This season boasts the highest quality of girls basketball the TRAC has ever seen, evidenced by the top five teams’ combined record of 73-12 before league opens. Each team is well-balanced and share the ball, playing a style of basketball where you won’t see any “me first” attitudes or discouraging play. These girls play a brand of basketball you won’t want to miss.

It’s not a stretch to proclaim girls basketball in the TRAC the top public school league in the state—and we don’t disagree.

Take state No. 6 Clovis West, the six-time defending Central Section champs with 13 straight league titles, still the top dog until someone knocks them off. And there’s Clovis North, ranked No. 13 in the state, boasting a very talented squad. Mix in excellent Clovis and Buchanan teams—both are knocking at the door to be state ranked—and that’s one heck of a league. In addition, Central is a surprising 12-2 and an improved Clovis East program 8-9. Every team is better than last year, a scary thought for the opposition.

And with this one thing is certain; every game will be a fierce battle of the hardwood unlike we’ve seen in a very long time. I guarantee it.

Clovis West (16-2)

Coach: Craig Campbell (14th season at Clovis West)

Team breakdown: The historic program under coach Craig Campbell owns a 127-3 league record the last 13 seasons, nine Central Section D-I titles, a CIF State Open championship and a national No. 1 ranking in 2017. And this year they are off to another blazing start at 16-2 and ranked No. 6 in the state by Cal-Hi Sports. The Golden Eagles flew to Hawaii and Florida for top-notch tournaments where they placed third in both, one of their two losses to Montverde Academy 48-47, Florida’s No. 2 team. With Clovis West you know what you get: high expectations, relentless pressing, sound passing and shooting the 3-ball with the accuracy of assassins. They are armed with a trio of four-year varsity seniors in guards Maddie Campbell and Champney Pulliam and forward Aari Sanders. Campbell, the coach’s daughter and the leading scorer in school history, is a returning First Team All-State Elite selection and USC signee, averaging over 20 points per game. Sophomore point guard Nikki Tom returns for her second varsity season and the bench is deep this year, playing up to 12 players per game. They are certainly the gold standard program in the Central Section.

Clovis North senior Grace Webb is force down low for the 13-3 Broncos, currently ranked No. 13 in the state by Cal-Hi Sports. COURTESY OF RAWSPORTZ MEDIA

Clovis North (13-3)

Coach: Heather Long (6th season at Clovis North)

Team breakdown: Two years ago Clovis North started two sophomores and two freshman, and last season the Broncos reached the Central Section championship before losing to Clovis West. Last year they were ranked as high as No. 9 in the state and was placed in the CIF Open Division of the state playoffs. Now, they are locked and loaded to make a run at a TRAC title and a return trip to the Valley title game. Under Heather Long, those youngsters have grown up exponentially, especially junior guard Savannah Tucker (24 points per game), the school record holder in career points, and 5-foot-10 do-everything Rowan Hein, the 2018 Cal-Hi Sports Sophomore of the Year. Two seniors, speedy point guard Taylor Pilot and a vastly improved Grace Webb – the Broncos best inside presence – are both four-year varsity players. Currently ranked No. 13 in the state, this is certainly a top-tier squad.

Clovis (17-2)

Coach: Greg Clark (4th year at Clovis)

Team breakdown: Clovis has grown by leaps and bounds under Greg Clark with an emphasis on conditioning, fundamentals, and execution on the court. Two years ago they made it to the Central Section title game and last year, after going 5-5 in league, advanced to the CIF D-II NorCal title game. This year they are even better, beating teams by an average score of 63 to 40. The Cougars feature four outstanding players: Jasmine Heu, a four-year varsity player and the only senior on the roster, and a trio of juniors in Avery Evans (16 points per game), Chloe Van Ness (16 ppg) and Kelsey Delgado (9 ppg). Preaching team basketball, any of those players has the ability to lead the team in scoring on any given night. As a team they average 9.5 three-pointers per game. This isn’t an up and coming team, they have already arrived.

Buchanan sophomore Ashtyn Arnold is one of four solid players for the 15-3 Bears. Under coach Adam Wall, Buchanan has turned the corner and will be a battle for everyone in the TRAC.

Buchanan (15-3)

Coach: Adam Wall (2nd year at Buchanan)

Team breakdown: The Buchanan program has certainly turned the corner and poised to make waves this season in coach Adam Wall’s second year at the helm. Playing with passion and precision, this isn’t the Bears of old, evidenced by their average score of 70-49 through 18 games. Amazingly, especially with a 15-3 record, Buchanan only has one senior on its roster, starter Kayla McDonald, but what they lack in experience they make up with chemistry and talent. Morgan Mathis, a junior who earned MVP honors in the Kiwanis Tournament, and junior Sara Snider are returning starters. Sophomores Olivia Garcia, a freshman starter last year, and Ashtyn Arnold round out a solid core that will certainly come to play every game, and will win a lot in the process.

Clovis East (8-9)

Coach: Garrett Mantle (1st year at Clovis East)

Team breakdown: For Clovis East there’s reason for hope moving forward with new head coach Garrett Mantle, the nephew of Mickey Mantle, who comes by way of Oklahoma where he recently spent the last five years as the head coach at Oklahoma Centennial. There they played in the toughest league in the state and went 106-42 with two state runners-up. He was also the head men’s coach at NCAA Division II Cameron University in Lawton, OK, for seven seasons. This year’s Timberwolves were dealt a tough blow to begin the year when 6-foot-1 senior Celina Miranda and Elizabeth Naranjo tore their ACLs. However, a group of seniors has bought into the program including Taj Felder (13 ppg), Naomi Medina, Ghade West and Chastity Martinez, the team’s best defender. Sophomore Ciena Tumoine is already a leader and when the Berry girls, Michelle (senior) and Jayden (soph) become eligible soon after transfering, they will improve drastically.   

Central (12-2)

Coach: Geoffrey Clayton (3rd year at Central)

Team breakdown: With a starting lineup that features four sophomores, Central is off to a great start at 12-2 under the guidance of Geoffrey Clayton, routinely suiting up only eight players. The Grizzlies won their own Queens of the Court tournament and the Tarkanian Classic in Las Vegas in wild fashion when they beat Desert Hills of Utah in double OT at the buzzer, finishing the game with only four players on the court. Sophomore point guard Semie Brar is averaging 22 points per game and scored 13 straight to end the game against Desert Hills. Guard Jayla Green, the only senior on the team, is averaging 19 a game.

Paul Meadors
Paul Meadors is a man of many talents. He is a elementary school teacher, Junior High athletic director, and basketball coach in Traver, CA, in addition to serving as the Sports Editor for the Clovis Roundup. He is also the author of the humorous book “Letters to eBay,” and he has recorded a piano album of his own compositions titled “Surviving the Storm.” He lives in Fresno with wife Lori and daughters Georgie, Alex and Ruthie.