By Paul Meadors | Sports Editor
(Cue catchy basketball music intro….)
We are sitting live at the Eagle’s Nest at Clovis West for a huuuugggge game between the Golden Eagles and the Clovis North Broncos. Sitting beside your friendly neighborhood Sports Editor for the evening is Dr. Jay Pope – a fellow basketball junkie, listed at 5’11” (6’3” with the afro) and a crazy Kentucky Wildcats fan.
We will be bringing you a running diary of the contest, hopefully bringing all the action straight to you in a fun and entertaining fashion. Seat belts and airbags sports fans, it’s gonna be a wild wide.
7:04 (Pope) If only my children did their chores with as much enthusiasm as high schoolers run through a layup line.
(Meadors) Can you imagine how much vacuuming could be done in a three-man weave drill? What possibilities…
7:07 (Pope) Broncos come into this contest with a record of 14-8 and 3-2 in conference. Avoiding a 3-game skid will be a tall order tonight.
(Meadors) Golden Eagles sport a sensational 20-2 record, 4-1 in league. Couldn’t ask for a better season so far for coach Vance Walberg in his second go-around at Clovis West. If they win out, they could earn the No. 1 seed in the Central Section D-1 playoffs.
And we have our first uh-oh moment: There’s Bronco standout Ben Avera standing at half court during warm-ups, dressed in sweats nursing a nagging hamstring injury.
7:11 (Pope) A tough task just got tougher.
7:13 If there are two better high school coaches going head to head tonight in America, you’d be hard-pressed to find them. Amundsen and Walberg are quality.
(Meadors) A year ago Walberg was still employed by the Sacramento Kings as an assistant. Fun fact: Walberg coached Amundsen at Newark Memorial in the Bay Area in the late 80s.
7:15 (Pope) Clovis North dresses 18 players. 18! If your coach cut you because the school only had 12 jerseys, well, Amundsen may have room for you.
(Meadors) That’s also a Walberg staple – he’s only cut three players in his coaching career. If you’re willing to put in the work, you’re on the team. Love that.
7:17 (Pope) Packed house. One of those games where people who haven’t been to a game all year show up. Great energy.
(Meadors) With Avera out, it could be tough for Clovis North. But they still have 6-foot-6 senior Elijah Straughter, who needs to be big tonight. A key will be 3-point shooting– they hit 13 against Clovis West in a 83-73 home victory to open up TRAC play. Look for the big three of Clovis West – PG Adrian Antunez, and wings Walter Graves and Adrian Martinez to carry the load.
BUCKLE UP HERE WE GO!
7:23 (Pope) Clovis North controlls the tip and PG Dominic “Dom” Reyes, under control, earns a 3-point play. Good concentration amidst the bigs. He’s a cool customer.
7:25 Broncos open up in a full-court press. Antunez for West a bit rattled by it. Get used to it, son–they’re going to do that all night.
7:27 CW’s size enables them to see over the top of the press and beat it. Will Amundson retreat? In the half-court, Broncos open with a zone.
7:28 (Meadors) First subs for CW; both teams substitute liberally.
Senior guard Antunez counters with a drive, his signature play. Such a tough player, so strong. Fresno Pacific is gonna love him next year.
Graves, at 6-foot-5, then nets a perfect three from the corner. He and Straughter should be a good battle. Both great leapers. And looky there – another three from Graves. 8-3 CW.
7:28 (Pope) Nice defensive rotation by CN’s Seth Riley in a 2-on-1 CW break. Took a charge nicely.
(Meadors) CN channeling their inner New Kids on the Block and “Hanging Tough.” 12-11 CW, 3:08. (Now you have that song in your head don’t you?)
7:31 (Pope) Broncos still pressing in the full court and it pays off: a steal leads to a layup. 12-9 Eagles. Make that 12-11 with 3 minutes left in the opening quarter. It just happened again.
(Meadors) CW’s Adrian Martinez, quarterback extraordinaire and holder of multiple Division 1 offers, uses those broad shoulders to get an offensive board and score. And check out Graves and Straughter–no love lost between them; they’re battling.
7:34 (Pope) CN has to be happy with the early looks they’re getting. They’re not falling, but the shots are there.
(Meadors) If this CW defense is susceptible, it’s inside, a lot of layups for CN. That’s the nature of their trapping style defense, their rotations underneath are a must.
Three-quarter court pass from Martinez to Matt Morris right under the hoop. But oh no, Martinez limps off with what looks to be a foot injury. He might have landed funny.
7:37 (Pope) Yikes. Would hate to see anything happen to Martinez. Such a competitor.
7:37 We’ll never know how hard it would have been for CW to score in their half-court offense. So far, everything they’ve gotten has been in transition via tremendous looks up the floor. It’s 22-15, CW at the end of the first quarter. Reyes at 5’6” is playing a terrific game. He closes the 1Q with two classy drives under heavy pressure.
7:41 Paul, where’s the pep band? Everyone loves a pep band.
(Meadors) Come on Jay it’s all hip-hop music these days. The theme from Rocky has been replaced by thumping songs that drown out any chance of meaningful conversation. Oh no, I’m become a “Get of my lawn!” old person.
7:42 (Pope) Taj Gill with the first triple for CN. 24-20, CW.
7:43 If it wasn’t hot yet, it is now. Fierce battle ensuing between the two #24’s. Lotta ball by Graves, but there was bodily contact on a ferocious drive by Straughter. Those two do not look like high schoolers.
7:47 Tony Amundsen did not think that was a foul, but Antunez goes to the line and makes it 33-21 CW with 5:08 left in the 2Q. Still, the normally steady Antunez is a bit rattled. He is a “feel” player and the chaotic Bronco defense is keeping him out of sync.
7:54 Broncos have broken the Eagle press every single time. The trouble is the difficult shots they’re taking once they do. They are going hard to the rim and missing, because the CW bigs are waiting back, luring them into the lane. Sometimes, you need to set up your offense and work for the good shot.
(Meadors) Graves with a nice up and under fake, gets Straughter to foul. Straughter usually stays on his feet; not this time.
7:59 (Pope)I don’t like the way the big inflatable Golden Eagle is looking at me.
(Meadors) Jay, he knows your son attends Buchanan.
8:00 (Pope) At 6-foot-6, Straughter is a virtuoso defender and doesn’t just blocks shots; he blocks shots without fouling. (Okay, Andy Boogaard just told me that). Quick off the floor.
8:01 It’s a game! 38-33 CW, with 1:30 left in the half. Reyes is everywhere.
(Meadors) CW is a little discombobulated right now. Now I can check another box off my bucket list – I used the word discombobulated in an article.
There’s Antunez, putting a defender on his hip for a layup. Great body control. 41-35, 41 seconds left in half.
8:03 (Pope) When Antunez bodies up against a guard in the paint, he scores at will.
8:04 Reyes picks Antunez’s pocket (again), scores, and kindly tells him about it. He’s exactly the kind of guard that gives more patient players like Antunez fits–he’s not letting him settle down. Next possession Reyes escapes three defenders running baseline to find Chad Fugman at the buzzer for a 3 to make it 42-38 at the half. He has been the best player so far.
(Meadors) Antunez with 13 Graves 10 at half, Reyes with 16 and a plethora of steals and assists. Discombobulated and plethora in one article? Just hand me the Pulitzer now.
8:17 (Pope) One of CN’s earlier losses was in Saratoga Springs. Not New York, but Utah. You know Utah–sandwiched in between Nevada and Wyoming? You’ve seen pictures.
(Meadors) Count me impressed of CN without Avera, it’s 42-40 CW with 7:02 left in third.
8:23 (Pope) Our new nickname for Reyes: “General Havoc”. Steal and a layup keeps it a 4-point ballgame.
8:25 Danger time, though, for CN: Antunez playing better and CW leads by 7.
(Meadors) Antunez has imposed his will in third quarter, 7 points so far.
Man, Martinez is really favoring his foot, surprised he’s still in. Just waved off a sub.
8:28 (Pope) I saw that. Walberg made the move to take him out and Martinez said “I’m good” while wincing. Tough.
8:28 Questionable call favors the Eagles and Amundsen ain’t happy. Takes the speedy Malik Seales-Briones off the court. Seales-Briones flourishes in scramble-style defenses. He moves like an electron–fast, but also instantly reappearing elsewhere, exactly where he’s needed.
(Meadors) I love watching coaches, Tony’s reaction was great. High intensity game. 53-48, 1:56.
8:30 (Pope) General Havoc strikes again! He had the ball picked from behind by a clever CW double-team, only to impossibly, MIRACULOUSLY recover it, shake two defenders, and drive for a high-arcing layup over an outstretched CW big. On the subsequent inbounds play, he steals it and lays it in again. The game’s best sequence. With a minute left in the 3Q it’s 53-52! Unreal.
(Meadors) Who’s in the General Havoc Fan Club? All of us. Walberg just had to shake his head at those plays–frustrated by the CN comeback, but I’m thinking more impressed with Reyes.
(Pope) End of the 3Q, and General Havoc closes it out in style. Exhausted, he pauses for a moment in his own half court, sprints out of an attempted double team on the far right and spots Gill again for a wide open corner three. 57-55 CW at the end of three. What a motor on this young man.
8:36 Rajan Nagra filling in nicely for General Havoc who’s taking a much needed breather.
(Meadors) A three by Fernando Guardada, who wears goggles and is about 130 pounds soaking wet. Then steal and layup by Antunez and it’s 66-60.
8:38 (Pope) Love the goggles. Straughter doesn’t see his coach signal for time out, and hits a 3 with nobody under the basket. One of those “No! No! No! YES!” baskets. 66-63, CW.
8:42 General Havoc back in for the last 4:20. It’s Riley, Straughter, Fugman, Reyes, and Gill for the Broncos.
(Meadors) Graves three from the top of the key, 69-63, then steps in nicely under the basket and causes a TO on the inbounds. When that guy plays hard it’s fun to watch.
8:44 (Pope) Huge swing there. CW misses a 3 that would have put them up 9. Instead, Reyes drives baseline, kicks it out to Gill for another 3 from the left corner. 69-66, Eagles. 2:56 left.
(Meadors) A clearly hobbled Martinez just hit a nice, 7-footer for a 71-66 lead.
Does CN have enough in the tank, they’re only lead was 3-0, now within 3. Impressive comeback.
8:49 (Pope) Amundsen trusting his defense in the half court, which has given CW virtually nothing all night. Too early to foul with 50 seconds left and Eagles up three. 31.9 seconds left. Broncos force an airball by a clearly hurting Martinez.
(Meadors) This is when it’s great to have a senior like Antunez, good ball handler, leadership.
8:50 (Pope) Wow!!! Taj Gill with the clutch 3 from his favorite spot (left corner) and we are tied at 71!!!! Golden Eagle ball with 16.7 left in the game.
(Meadors) Incredible comeback by CN. Time out on the floor.
8:51 (Pope) Let’s see what 40+ years of coaching experience draws up on this play. Does Amundsen press or trap? What does Walberg draw up? It’s deafening in here.
(Meadors) Antunez has to have the ball here. Isolation? Amundsen call for a trap? Let’s see…………
8:52 (Pope) It’s Antunez all the way. He fights into the lane and gets off a contested shot from point blank range that misses just a hair short. Refs putting 2 seconds back on the clock for the last play. CN ball, but they have to go the length of the court.
(Meadors) What kind of miracle play can Amundsen draw up here? Can you run a 70-foot “picket fence”?
8:53 (Pope) Don’t get caught watching the paint dry, Paul.
8:54 Fugman just misses a shot from about 10 feet behind half-court. I mean, misses by less than a foot.
(Meadors) 4 minutes of bonus basketball!! TRAC basketball … catch it!
Straughter with tip – that CN’s second lead of the game since 3-0, but Graves counters with a power move, all tied 73-73. Graves is playing like an All-TRAC player.
9:00 (P) You know who wins with overtime? The fans.
(Meadors) Turnover CN, this is where they would miss Avera. Can score in half court from anywhere.
9:01 (Pope) Reyes misses a runner but somehow gets a pinkie on the ball that sends it to Straughter, who catches, shoots, and draws a foul. Hits both (amidst screams by CW students) to tie it at 75. Reyes is the MVP regardless of the outcome tonight. Sensational. Graves has put up huge numbers as well and has played tough defense.
(Meadors) Wow, and there’s great defense on Reyes from Nick Coleman. He’s been sticking to him like glue since the third quarter. Back door layup for Antunez on the other end and it’s 77-75 CW, 1:32.
9:05 Martinez (playing on one foot) with a HUGE block on Straughter from behind, denying a certain layup. 18.7 left, CW ball. Play of the game!
9:07 (Pope) CN fouls Antunez, who faces 2 critical free throws. Hits them both. Eagles up 4. Looking grim for North. When the game began to grind, Antunez showed toughness and poise. No wonder Walberg called his name down the stretch on every possession.
(Meadors) Again, so valuable is a senior guard who can make a free throw. You know how much free throws cost? Nothing! They’re free for goodness sake!
9:07 (Pope) They’re like gifts. What should you do when someone hands you a gift?
(Meadors) Jay, you receive the gift.
Graves takes a charge from Reyes after great man-to-man defense from Coleman, and Antunez dribbles out the clock.
9:13 (Pope) The end of that game was extremely sudden.
(Meadors) Final: 82-75 CW. Good win for CW and fine effort from outmanned Clovis North in hostile territory. Much respect. Neither coach can complain.
Antunez with 26, Graves with 24 for CW (21-2, 5-1); General Havoc (Dom Reyes) with 26 for CN (14-9, 3-3).
Fun times here with Dr. Pope, thanks everyone for reading.