By Paul Meadors, Sports Editor
If the first three games of the boys TRAC basketball are any indication of the final seven, well, we’re in for a wild ride.
Three Clovis area teams—Clovis North, Clovis West and Clovis East—have all started off 2-1, but it was the talented team from Central leading the way at 3-0, defeating Buchanan and Clovis High at home and Clovis West on the road.
With such familiarity between each school, this comes as no surprise to anyone, including Clovis West coach Tom Orlich.
“The league knows each other,” said Orlich, the Golden Eagles coach since 2002. “Everyone prepares so well.”
Clovis West (14-4) beat Clovis North (13-6) at home in the opening round of TRAC 55-46 behind the strong play of junior guard Adrian Antunez and his 17 points. Walter Graves III, also a junior, electrified the crowd with two crowd-pleasing dunks.
“Antunez is one of the top guards in the valley and we’re very fortunate to have him,” said Orlich after their opening game victory. “He does everything for us.”
The Broncos of Clovis North play an up-tempo style game, coupled with a pressure defense. But it was the Eagles who dictated the own pace, scoring in the 50s is where they are most comfortable.
Orlich knew they had to slow down the big three of Clovis North: seniors Javon Johnson and Jonah Brown and junior forward Elijah Straughter. And they did just that.
“We had to play well, this is a really good Clovis North team,” continued Orlich. “They have a lot of firepower, especially defensively everything worked very well tonight. We were very fortunate and it was a great win for us.”
Surely a foreshadowing of things to come, Clovis West held a pep rally earlier in the day and Graves wowed the crowd with a few 360 dunks, one where he jumped over two classmates. This translated to the court later that night. “My confidence is clicking really well right now,” said Graves in an understatement.
However, in their next match up, a home game against hard-charging Central, Clovis West couldn’t keep up the momentum falling 49-44. They would bounce back in defeating Buchanan 77-46 on Jan. 22.
That being said, Clovis North also did some bouncing back themselves in the third round of the TRAC play against Clovis East, a team that came in 2-0 after defeating Buchanan and Clovis High. The Broncos started off fast and furious and cruised to a 81-67 win.
Behind 10 points from Johnson, the Broncos raced to a 24-11 first quarter lead and never looked back. Straughter added 15 and Brown chipped in with 14 in the game.
Coach Tony Amundsen was pleased with the effort (they would defeat Clovis 73-39 in the second game of TRAC) and thought his team came out with great energy.
“I thought we did a good job and I was proud of the hustle and effort,” said Amundsen in his third year coaching at Clovis North. “They did a great job of executing.”
Johnson, the senior guard with a great ability to attack the basket agreed: “We were playing harder defensively and we picked up the total effort. We weren’t ready to play in that Clovis West game but tonight we were.”