PREP BASKETBALL: Bullard defeats Clovis West for D-I boys championship
It’s Bullard High’s depth, speed and defense — and let’s not ignore talent — that has denied Clovis West on Central Section basketball’s brightest stage.
Down by 13 points in the first and second quarters, the top-seeded Knights received 21 points from Brad Thakham, and 16 and 11 rebounds from Aaric Armstead, forced 32 turnovers and rallied past the No. 6 Golden Eagles 69-55 for the boys Division I title Saturday night before around 7,000 at Selland Arena in Fresno.
A year after closing with an 18-10 surge in the fourth quarter to defeat Clovis West 54-51 for its first championship in 15 years, Bullard (29-3) zapped the Eagles with a 24-9 run in the final 8 minutes this time.
Mostly it was about the fullcourt defensive heat that has become the program’s staple under fourth-year coach Tony Amundsen.
“That’s our identity,” he said. “Defense and rebounding are a big part of what we do. We grind it out in practice, too; our practices our tougher than these games, no question.”
In addition to the advantage in turnovers (the Knights had 16), Bullard also had a 40-32 edge in rebounding against nine-time section champion Clovis West (21-6), which got here again without anything remotely close to a post player.
“It’s been a David-versus-Goliath mentality for us in the second half,” said coach Tom Orlich of the Eagles, who had won six straight games — featuring conquests of higher-ranked Central and Buchanan in the Tri-River Athletic Conference, and road victories against third-seeded Bakersfield and No. 2 Buchanan.
“It came down [against Bullard] to too many turnovers and we couldn’t board with them.”
Charlie Thompson did give the Eagles a shot.
In one of the most impressive performances in the eight-year history of the section finals at Selland, the 5-foot-10 guard made 11 of 16 shots — including several spectacular drives — and made 5 of 8 3-pointers for 28 points.
“Defense definitely won the game for us even though Charlie went off,” Amundsen said. “He’s a great player.”
Bullard, at home, and Clovis West, likely on the road, will play Southern California regional openers Wednesday.
Thakham, a four-year player, in the second half scored 15 of his points and recorded all of his three steals.
“Our slogan is ’32 minutes of hell,’ ” he said. “We get after it.”
He then pointed to Amundsen: “I wouldn’t want to play for anyone else. He’s like a father figure to me. We think the same and talk the same; I’m an extension of him on the court. I trust him with my life.”
Clovis West came out outrunning, outpushing and outdefending, taking a 23-10 lead with 6:30 left in the first half.But Calvin Young, Adam Armstead, Thakham and Corey Silverstrom each scored offensive rebound baskets as taller, deeper Bullard closed the half with a 17-5 surge, hacking the deficit to 28-27.
The depth kept the Knights in the house — how else to explain in a half they shot 29.4% from the field (10 of 34), compared with the Eagles’ 52.4% (11 of 21)?
By Andy Boogaard / The Fresno Bee