The squeak of sneakers on the hardwood, the blaring of the substitution horn, the eruption of cheers from the bench after every score — they were all signs that pointed to one thing.
High school girls’ basketball was back.
So was the stifling defense and dominant play of the Clovis West Golden Eagles.
The nine-time defending Central Section champion Golden Eagles opened the 2021-22 girls’ basketball season with a 79-25 victory over the Sierra Pacific Golden Bears Monday in Hanford.
There was a notable youth movement on a Clovis West team that graduated five seniors from last year, four of whom were starters. Sophomore guard Athena Tomlinson led the team with 23 points and four made 3-pointers. Fellow sophomore Ariyah Smith filled the stat sheet with her performance, recording eight points, four rebounds, four assists, and three steals.
Freshmen Riley Walls (7 points) and Keegan Medeiros (6 points) each knocked down a pair of 3-pointers off the bench. There was also senior strength in the paint as forward Kennedy Vincent scored 12 points and shot a perfect 4-for-4 from the free throw line.
Clovis West ran out an entirely different starting lineup from last season, going with Tomlinson, Smith, Vincent, Michaela Young, and Trinity Tolbert. They helped the Golden Eagles race to a 25-5 lead after the first quarter and 48-14 at halftime.
Sierra Pacific struggled to even get shot attempts early as Clovis West wreaked havoc on defense, forcing five turnovers within the first five minutes. The Golden Eagles finished with 17 steals as a team.
Clovis West head coach Craig Campbell expected first-game jitters in their first taste of regular season action, but he expressed excitement about the Golden Eagles’ young core of players and their potential.
“We lost five very talented seniors, but we’re really excited about what we have back,” Campbell said. “We have a really good freshman class –we have four up on varsity — so it’s exciting. They’re very coachable and we’re looking like we’ll be a lot better in February than we are right now.”
To test the young Golden Eagles and the new-look starting lineup, Campbell scheduled their first four games on the road, beginning with the season opener at Sierra Pacific followed by games at Santiago of Corona, Sonora of La Habra, and Atwater.
The Golden Eagles return home for the Clovis West Nike Invitational during the first weekend of December, but they travel out-of-state for showcases in Arizona and Dallas later in the month.
Clovis West started building toward the December gauntlet by winning its season opener, otherwise known as the “Foundation Game.”
“The foundation game is always so important, because it doesn’t matter if you play your first game in November or December, it’s always sloppy, jitters, and the kids are hyped up,” Campbell said. “A lot of them don’t have a lot of varsity experience and a lot of them haven’t played in front of crowds before. It’s getting all those factors to kind of calm down, and it was getting better as the game went on. I don’t think we were particularly sharp, but it is mid-November, so it’s a growth process.”
Clovis West (1-0) plays at Santiago High School on Friday. Just like that, another girls’ basketball season is underway.