Clovis West, Clovis North win early season tournaments in style
By Paul Meadors | Sports Editor
The Clovis West boys team is off to a fast start at 7-1, which should be no surprise to those who have followed high school basketball recently. The 2016-17 season marked the return of revered coach Vance Walberg, who coached the Golden Eagles in their glory years from 1989-2002, ushering into the fabric of the Valley an up-tempo style and exciting brand of basketball.
And 14 years later, the boys from Clovis West are scoring in bunches as evidenced by averaging 87 points per game including 108 and 107 in their first two games. They opened up their season at the Modesto Tournament with three straights win before suffering their only loss on the season in the championship game to Beyer 72-86. But the Golden Eagles fired back in winning the Simi Valley Classic, beating Burroughs in the final 85-46 on Dec. 10.
“We played solid, I wouldn’t say we played well but we played solid,” said Walberg, who spent the last five years as an assistant coach in the NBA for the Denver Nuggets, Philadelphia 76ers and the Sacramento Kings. “We are trying to get the football players and into the rotations. We have a lot of things to work out that way.”
Senior guard Adrian Antunez has been outstanding early and extremely consistent. The six-foot Fresno Pacific signee averaged 28 points in the Modesto Tournament then won MVP honors in Simi Valley after scoring 26 in beating La Salle 82-76, 25 in the 79-57 win over Valencia and 24 in the championship game.
“He’s as good as they come, a special kid and a special player – he just knows how to play,” said Walberg of Antunez. “He’s been very efficient more than anything, What he’s so good at is that he knows when to go and when not to go.”
Walberg is looking forward to what football players Adrian Martinez (who recently committed to Cal and was named TRAC Player of the Year at quarterback) and Nick Coleman will bring to the team. On Martinez: “Once he gets to play more you’ll be able to see more things out of him. He takes it to the rack which I love.” Coleman: “Plays hard, and I love that. He’s got a nice shot.”
In addition, seniors Walter Graves and Eseosa will be looked upon for big things this season. Graves at six-foot-five can score and rebound and Eseosa will do all the little things to help win games.
Next up for Clovis West is their own showcase, with four area teams playing four teams from the Bakersfield area every night from Dec. 14-18.
Clovis North boys start 5-1, win McDonald’s Winter Classic
The Clovis North boys team lost in the championship game of their own Valley Children’s Hospital Tip-Off Invitational to Burbank 78-56 but then won the Pleasant Valley McDonald’s Winter Classic by beating Tamalpais 69-53 on Dec. 10. The Broncos are 5-1 on the season after winning the TRAC last year and reaching the finals of the Division I Central Section championship.
Ben Avera was named tournament MVP after scoring 27 points in the championship game and Elijah Straughter was named to the all-tournament team and scored 14 in the finals.
As to the Broncos great start – Avera is not surprised. The six-foot-six senior is the team’s leading scorer so far including a school-record 41 points in their opening season 97-35 win over De Anza in the Valley Children’s Hospital Tip-Off Classic.
“I’m not surprised in the least bit about our start to the season,” said Avera, an Azusa Pacific commit. “My teammates, especially the seniors, and I have put in tremendous amounts of hard work and time throughout the off-season. We are confident in our ability to win games and I think we can keep up this pace throughout the season if we continue to play as a team.”
Clovis North is coached by Tony Amundsen, his fourth year as the Broncos head coach, and has ties to Clovis West coach Vance Walberg. In addition to running a similar style (pressure, trapping defense, drive and dish and lots of 3s), Walberg coached Amundsen in high school at Newark Memorial in the late 80’s. The two teams will meet first on Jan. 13 at Clovis North then again on Feb. 1 at Clovis West.