Fresno-Clovis hoops finalists ready to launch
One has been at Bullard High for six months, the other groomed in the Clovis West district system for six years.
Yet the road to Selland Arena brings seniors Aaric Armstead and Charlie Thompson together at 8 p.m. Saturday for the grandest stage in Central Section basketball — the Division I boys championship
And they’ll arrive on fire.
Armstead, a year after helping lead Chicago’s Hales Franciscan to the Illinois 2A state title, has scored 27 and 23 points for top-seeded Bullard (28-3) in playoff wins over Clovis East (93-46) and Central (83-74).
A big jumper and dunker at 6 feet, 5 inches in addition to having long-distance shooting range, strong rebounding and terrorizing defense, he has scored a school single-season record 700 points while blowing past 1991 Bee Player of the Year DeAndre Maxwell (644).
Thompson has found the top of his game in a three-year career that now ranks him ninth in school career scoring (1,124) for sixth-seeded Clovis West (21-5).
The 5-10 guard closed Tri-River Athletic Conference play with 32-point performances against Clovis East and Clovis before toasting No. 3 Bakersfield for 27 and No. 2 Buchanan for 32 in 61-58 and 92-76 (double overtime) come-from-behind wins.
Now The Showdown at Selland.
“They’re small, but good — real good,” Armstead said of the Golden Eagles. “They play hard, and I can’t wait to play them.”
Thompson countered about the Knights: “They are really athletic. Oh, I can’t wait ’til Saturday — I can’t wait.”
The Chicago escape
Phil Armstead couldn’t wait to flee Chicago with his family.
“There were a lot of factors for leaving Chicago,” he said, “but getting away from the violence was the major reason. People don’t realize how violent it is there, they really don’t. It’s serious. My kids’ safety is the main reason we’re here.”
Adam (junior) and Austin (freshman) also play with brother Aaric on Bullard’s varsity.
Working for a steel company in Fresno, the father said he chose the area in part on the recommendation by Dominick Young — who played Fresno State basketball after coming from Chicago.
“I’ve known him since he was a kid,” Phil Armstead said.
Aaric Armstead will not be blinded by the bright lights at Selland.
The state championship won last year by Hales Franciscan was played before a capacity crowd of more than 11,000 at Bradley University’s Carver Arena.
“But this game [Saturday] is real big to me,” he said. “Coming out to a whole new state and then going to a game like this is real good.”
“Aaric has a knack for scoring and a motor like no one I’ve ever seen — he never gets tired,” Knights coach Tony Amundsen said. “He’s a well-conditioned athlete who’s very serious about basketball. He wants to get the highest level he can, and that includes the NBA.
“Obviously, his skill level is very high. He can shoot it, dribble, pass it, defend and rebound. He’s a great all-around player.”
Flying with the Eagles
Thompson is the latest star product of the section’s standard-bearing program for 20 years, featuring nine D-I titles.
And it’s on the west wall of the Clovis West gym that his name is about to be added to a boys basketball board of honor.
“To be on the board is amazing,” he said Thursday following practice while examining an Eagles career scoring list topped by Terry Reason (2,152) and Chris Hernandez (1,829).
“I never thought I’d be there, no, not at all.”
Thompson established himself at Clovis West feeder Kastner Intermediate and continued the success as a freshman on the Golden Eagles’ junior varsity before making the varsity leap as a sophomore.
“He’s a very special player,” said Tom Orlich, the state’s sixth-winningest coach (753-250) in a 35-year career at South Tahoe (25) and Clovis West (10).
“He’s a multidimensional player who can go to the basket or pull up and shoot the 3, so it’s difficult to overplay him in any way. He’s a good athlete and an intense competitor.”
Today’s games in the Central Section boys and girls basketball championships at Selland Arena:
D-V girls: No. 1 Kings Christian vs. No. 3 Central Valley Christian (16-9), 2 p.m.
D-V boys: No. 1 Fresno Christian (23-2) vs. No. 2 Laton (15-13), 4 p.m.
D-II girls: No. 1 Monache (22-2) vs. No. 3 Redwood (21-5), 6 p.m.
D-II boys: No. 1 Memorial (20-8) vs. No. 2 Tulare (28-4), 8 p.m.
By Andy Boogaard