It was the type of gritty, tough contest that Long Beach Poly’s girls basketball team has won many times over the years, but this time it was Clovis West of Fresno that got the triumph and did its part to set up a rematch with Archbishop Mitty in the CIF Open Division state final. The Golden Eagles also no doubt made a lot of other people proud in the CIF Central Section. Also winning in a girls regional final on Saturday in Long Beach was Windward of Los Angeles in Division I behind an epic outing from sophomore sensation Charisma Osborne.
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Clovis West Makes History
For CIF Central Section
With its 53-44 victory over Long Beach Poly in the CIF SoCal Open Division championship, head coach Craig Campbell’s team from Clovis West of Fresno had the knowledge that it was attempting to become the first girls team from the CIF Central Section to ever win in that game and advance to a CIF state final in any top division of the state playoffs.
“We’ve had some outstanding teams from the valley, but have never seemed to get much statewide respect,” said Campbell, whose 33-2 team began the week ranked behind only NorCal Open Division champ Archbishop Mitty of San Jose in the state (based on Mitty having a head-to-head win). “We tried to get together the toughest schedule we could find this season, but all the while we figured it would be Poly and us. We told (our kids) all week that this game was in Long Beach but it was not a home game for them. That was a pro-Clovis West crowd. We did this for our crowd and we’re proud to be representing our community and the valley.”
When the two teams met early in the season in the semifinals of the Iolani tourney in Hawaii, it took overtime before the Golden Eagles emerged as a 70-67 winner.
“I thought in Hawaii it was back and forth in the first quarter, then we fell behind by 15, but erased it in the third quarter,” said Long Beach Poly head coach Carl Buggs, whose team finished 27-4 and likely won’t drop from No. 3 in the next state rankings or in the final state rankings. “This one was low-scoring like twp heavyweights feeling each other out. In the second half I thought we were more aggressive.”
Campbell also challenged the Golden Eagles to be tougher on both sides of the floor, especially in the second half, but their more savvy lineup (four three-year starters) was more effective getting to the free throw line. While the Jackrabbits were only 3-of-11 on free throws, Clovis West connected on 28 of 35.
“I’ll be the first to agree with many calls, but the thing with these is that they all seemed to happen when it changed momentum,” Buggs said.
At halftime, the two teams were tied at 22-22. Clovis West broke a 28-28 tie late in the third quarter on a 3-pointer by UC Santa Barbara-bound Sarah Bates. The Golden Eagles broke a 37-37 tie in the fourth quarter on a basket by Boise State recruit Tess Amundsen, who then added two free throws for a 41-37 lead.
Poly got it to within 44-41 with less than four minutes left on a basket by Loyola Marymount bound Jasmine Jones and then had a chance to tie on a 3-pointer. After that miss, though, Bates made four straight free throws to boost the lead back to 48-41. Poly could not recover.
In typical fashion for both teams, the scoring was extremely balanced.
Bates made 7-of-9 free throws and had 10 points while sharp-shooter Megan Anderson also had 10 for the Golden Eagles. She was 5-of-5 on free throws while Danae Marquez was 6-for-6. Arizona State-bound Bre’yanna Sanders only scored seven, but led Clovis West with 12 rebounds.
When Bates was asked how the Golden Eagles came back from a lop-sided loss to Centennial of Las Vegas in January, which wasn’t long after they had won the Nike Tournament of Champions in Arizona, she said it just about getting back to basics.
“We were playing so well in Hawaii and Arizona, but fell off and just realized we had to step back up again,” she said. “Once we got it back, we haven’t let it get into our heads again and we’ve kept getting better and better.”
Jones led all scorers with 13 points and had a game-high 17 rebounds. Poly was hurt by USC-bound center Ayanna Clark getting hit with early fouls, which limited her to just five points. The team’s only other double-digit scorer was Danae Miller with 11 points.
“I’m proud of everybody for what they did and where they came from since we were freshmen,” said Clark about the close of a four-year career for Poly. “I couldn’t ask for anything better than that.”
Division I South:
Windward (Los Angeles) 61, Ventura 43
These two teams played in the CIFSS Open Division consolation round and this time the margin of victory by the Wildcats (29-4) was a bit greater than the 55-52 score by which they defeated the Cougars (25-8) earlier.
In the first half, however, it was more of a nip-and-tuck affair. Then Charisma Osborne buried a 3-pointer and scored on a drive to the hoop one second before the halftime horn to give Windward a 25-19 lead. The Wildcats (ranked No. 16 overall in the state) then scored 10 straight points to start the third quarter and were never threatened.
“We had quite a stretch in the third quarter,” said Windward head coach Vanessa Nygaard, who will be attempting to win her first CIF state title (she was an assistant when the school won its only CIF state crown in 2011 in D4) next Friday against McClatchy of Sacramento. “Our defensive intensity was outstanding.”
Nygaard also had Osborne, last season’s State Freshman of the Year and a likely candidate for Ms. Basketball this season. The flashy guard dominated with 35 points, including five 3-pointers.
“Obviously, Osborne is a beast,” said Ventura head coach Ann Larson, whose team (ranked No. 19 in the state) probably will still finish in the final State Top 20 despite the loss. “She’s a very good player, but we didn’t play a very good game. Absolutely, we weren’t counted to go this far this season. They just put their heads down and just kept playing.”
Kaiyah Corona was the only other Windward player in double figures with 12 points. Ventura was led by Svannah Page with 10 points and Aubrey Knight with nine points and nine rebounds.
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