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Laying an egg is one thing, but what the Clovis West girls basketball team of Fresno laid on Monday at the St. Mary’s MLK Showcase in Stockton was more like one of those giant ones laid by a dinosaur.
The Golden Eagles, who ascended to No. 1 in the state and have been No. 1 in many national rankings based on their wins at last month’s Nike Tournament of Champions in Arizona, fell into a 20-5 hole in their game against Centennial of Las Vegas and never recovered in a 70-44 loss. Making the score more surprising is that Centennial was one of the teams that Clovis West beat on its way to the top title in Arizona 57-42.
“Hopefully, this is a wake up call,” said Golden Eagles head coach Craig Campbell. “We weren’t doing a lot of the little things in some of our previous games and we’re going to have to fix those things if we want to play at another level and get back to playing like we were in December.”
Centennial came into the event at No. 11 in the nation in at least one ranking (MaxPreps) and looked like a national elite level squad not just with its win over Clovis West but also in its win on Saturday over host St. Mary’s, although that one was a lot closer (68-65).
“These were two totally different teams we played here,” said Centennial head coach Karen Weitz, who only last week won her 600th game and has built one of the top programs in the West. “St. Mary’s was athletic and had some height. We’re lucky to ever have a 6-footer and they had two. Clovis West is much more methodical.”
In the Monday game, the Bulldogs also did a strong job putting pressure on Clovis West’s 3-point shots. The Golden Eagles only made two of 26 from beyond the arc and also had difficulty rebounding.
“We didn’t take them for granted and don’t take anybody for granted,” Campbell said. “It was just too hard to come back after that first half we had against a team like that. I thought we played soft, just didn’t defend, took bad shots and had too many turnovers.”
Having such a poor outing, however, in January gives Campbell plenty of time to work on the team’s holes and if one thing is certain in California girls basketball this season is that there doesn’t appear to be any teams that don’t have deficiencies to improve.
Centennial continued to build its lead in the second quarter and led 38-16 at halftime. The Golden Eagles did score the first five points of the third quarter, but another run by the Bulldogs put them solidly back in front.
Two players in particular for Centennial who came out on Monday were even more impactful than against St. Mary’s on Saturday were sophomore guard Mel Isbell and sophomore guard Aja Phoumiphat. Isbell hit for 12 points while Phoumiphat had all 11 of her points in the first half when the Bulldogs took control. Also reaching double-figures were Jayden Eggleston and Justice Ethridge with 12 points and 11, respectively.
Another downer on the day for Clovis West is that Maddie Campbell, the sophomore daughter of the head coach, came off the floor late in the game holding her hand and went straight to the lockerroom. According to a text from Campbell to Cal-Hi Sports correspondent Harold Abend, she suffered a dislocated finger that had been “popped back in.”
Clovis West still may only fall from No. 1 to No. 2 in this week’s state rankings or may not fall at all since Centennial will be going way up nationally and the Golden Eagles after all did beat the Bulldogs earlier. The team’s only two double-digit scorers were Arizona State-bound Bre’yanna Sanders (12 points) and Campbell (10).
In other games on Monday at the St. Mary’s MLK Showcase:
Archbishop Mitty (San Jose) 58,
Mission Hills (San Marcos) 38
The ease by which the Monarchs (ranked No. 2 in the state coming into the week) dispatched the Grizzlies (No. 10) may have sparked debate that they should now be back in front of No. 1 Clovis West based on their head-to-head win over the Golden Eagles at the Iolani tourney in Hawaii, but it wasn’t enough to cause head coach Sue Phillips to be too pleased with her team’s performance.
“It was a good, solid win and based on the margin people would think that,” Phillips said. “But that’s certainly not the effort that we’d like. Despite our sloppiness, I was happy with this win.”
Mission Hills also was coming into the day after an impressive 47-31 triumph over state No. 14 Salesian of Richmond on Saturday in its first game at the MLK Showcase.
In this matchup, Mission Hills did its best to hang within striking distance in the first half, then cut the lead to 31-25 in the third before a 17-0 run by the Monarchs put the game away. Heleyna Hill converted one four-point play during the run and also buried another 3-point shot to key the run.
Mitty’s leading scorers were senior Maddie Holland with 15 points and super sophomore Haley Jones with 12. Many of the college coaches who were in the gym on Monday — one estimate was about 20 — probably were keeping a keen eye on Jones, one of the nation’s top-ranked Class of 2019 prospects.
Mission Hills only had one double-figure scorer as leading all-state candidate Khayla Rooks hit for 11 points.
St. Mary’s (Stockton) 89,
Alemany (Mission Hills) 69
The Rams turned a 24-16 deficit at the end of the first quarter into a 47-37 lead at halftime and went on to vanquish the Warriors. And considering how impressive Centennial of Las Vegas was in the previous game vs. national and state No. 1 Clovis West and that St. Mary’s only lost to the Bulldogs 68-65 on Saturday, all in all it was a pretty good weekend for head coach Tom Gonsalves.
Before the MLK event, it was thought that St. Mary’s might debut returning All-State guard Naje Murray, the San Diego State-bound standout who has been rehabbing from ACL knee surgery since last summer. Murray still hasn’t been okayed by the doctors, however, and it’s still likely she won’t be rushed back too quickly.
Without Murray, St. Mary’s lacks some of its usual effectiveness running its full-court press and also doesn’t have its most accurate 3-point shooter. Even without her, though, the Rams showed they are very close to either Clovis West or Archbishop Mitty.
DeCosta had a strong game against Alemany with 23 points and 12 rebounds. Ariel Johnson also followed up her strong outing against Centennial (22 points) with another 25 on Monday.
One player from Alemany the locals from Stockton were interested in was University of Pacific-bound Anaya McDavid.
Salesian (Richmond) 49,
La Jolla Country Day (La Jolla) 46
You have to hand it to the Torreys for being in the MLK Showcase just for one day, considering how far they had to travel. You also have to hand it them for the way they came back against the Pride, although the girls from Richmond held on for the win.
In the closest finish among the four games witnessed by Cal-Hi Sports on the day, Makayla Edwards drained a pair of free throws with 12.5 seconds left to give Salesian the three-point lead. La Jolla Country Day’s Kiera Okry got off a 3-point shot to potentially tie the score at the buzzer, but it didn’t go in.
Entering the fourth quarter, Salesian had a 38-30 lead and was doing an effective job of holding down the Torreys. Cal-bound Alaysia Styles, however, hit some key buckets for La Jolla Country Day down the stretch. Salesian never gave up the lead and made just enough free throws to get the win.
“I’m very happy we emerged with this win,” said Salesian head coach Stephen Pezzola, whose state No. 14 ranked team had lost to No. 10 Mission Hills on Saturday. “Our sophomores came up big for us at the end.”
Pezzola probably wasn’t happy, on the other hand, to see senior guard Sierra Smith, who played at St. Mary’s last season, hobbling around on a sore knee after the game. Smith went out on a play right underneath the basket where all of the college coaches were sitting.
Styles led all scorers with 22 points. Edwards had 13 for the Pride and was closely followed by teammates Angel Jackson (11 points) and Anjel Galbriath (10 points). All three are sophomores and Jackson at 6-foot-5 is another major college prospect.