Bullard, Clovis West set up boys basketball championship rematch
Bullard High’s boys basketball team never did leave that road to Selland Arena.
The Knights jumped on it last year, won their first Central Section title in 15 years, and are screaming down the fast lane as impressively as ever after defeating Central 83-74 Tuesday night in a Division I semifinal before a turnaway crowd of around 2,200 in the Bullard gym.
The Armstead brothers — senior Aaric and junior Adam — combined for 41 points and dominant rebounding and defense for the top-seeded Knights (28-3), who will play No. 6 Clovis West (21-5) at 8 p.m. Saturday at Selland Arena in a rematch of the 2011 championship won 54-51 by Bullard.
The Golden Eagles received 32 points from Charlie Thompson and 25 from T.J. Jackson and outscored No. 2 Buchanan 18-2 in the second overtime to prevail 92-76 in the Bears’ gym.
This occurred five days after Clovis West mauled No. 3 Bakersfield 28-11 in the fourth quarter for a 61-58 win on the Drillers’ floor.
The Golden Eagles have captured nine section championships, forfeited two others and have finished second three times since winning the 2006 D-I title.
Buchanan (24-5), never a section champion in 20 seasons of boys basketball, missed shots at the buzzer in regulation and the opening OT.
And it was in the first extra period that senior guard Alex Fertig fouled out with 1:51 remaining and the score 72-72. He scored 29 points while closing a four-year career with 2,287 — No. 1 in school history and No. 6 on the section career list, according to Valley historian Bob Barnett.
At Bullard, what the hundreds of denied fans missed outside in a game sold out at noon was Knights depth and defensive pressure, which have no rival in the section.
And what the ones inside also saw was maybe the best combination performance by the Armstead brothers since they transferred in the summer from Chicago, where they helped lead Hales Franciscan to the Illinois 2A state title last year.
“Everybody here made me feel real comfortable, so it was easy to get in touch with teammates, get organized and get good team chemistry going,” said Aaric Armstead, a 6-foot-5 wing.
Bullard also received 18 points from guard Brad Thakham and several other strong contributions while overpowering Central with depth.
“Everybody’s meshing and playing as a team,” said coach Tony Amundsen, whose school-record team wasn’t threatened after receiving two menacing dunks from Aaric Armstead for a 38-26 lead late in the first half.
Central Section boys basketball finals at Selland Arena:
Division I: No. 1 Bullard vs. No. 6 Clovis West, 8 p.m. Saturday
D-II: No. 1 Memorial vs. No. 2 Tulare, 8 p.m. Friday
D-III: No. 1 Mt. Whitney vs. No. 6 Ridgeview, 4 p.m. Saturday
D-IV: No. 1 CVC vs. No. 2 Sierra, noon Saturday
D-V: No. 1 Fresno Christian vs. No. 2 Laton, 4 p.m. Friday
By Andy Boogaard