Clovis North freshman key to basketball win
He’s a New Orleans native, is now a Clovis North High basketball player, stands but about 5 feet, 9 inches, dreadlocks flowing and is only a freshman.
“He’s extremely talented, and we’re blessed to have him,” Broncos coach Rob Streeter said Wednesday night after Colin Slater delivered repeated spectacular drives, scored 36 points and lifted the fifth-ranked Broncos to a Tri-River Athletic Conference-opening 80-74 win over No. 3 Clovis West.
In this typically loaded league and against this typically powerful opponent — the Central Section’s most successful 30-year program in the Golden Eagles — this wasn’t the stage typically reserved for rookie showcases.
But Slater performed with playground calm on his homecourt: “The coaching staff had me the whole game, and the seniors have been supporting me and guiding me through this whole experience, so I trusted them. I just want to win because my coaches told me before the season what I had to do for us to win.”
He had to be exceptional on a night Clovis West (11-4) countered with young backcourt excellence of its own — a 31-point effort by sophomore guard Michael Orlich, son of veteran Eagles coach Tom Orlich. He made five 3-pointers.
All of this unfolded in a game the Broncos had circled for months.
“January 16 — it’s been in our talk since October, absolutely,” Streeter said.
“It’s league, it’s the TRAC. This is the time.”
His team got a lot better in late December, when four players got their basketball legs back after contributing to Clovis North’s section Division I-winning football team.
The Broncos are 10-6, but 9-2 in that quartet’s return. And that includes 6-6, 235-pound David Wells, a San Diego State-bound tight end who powered his team’s dominance on the boards with 12 rebounds, and Rudy Lopez, a senior guard whose 3-point play on a drive and free gave Clovis North the lead for good, 74-72, with 2 minutes remaining.
“Rudy’s play was a huge momentum turn,” said Streeter, whose .500 TRAC team last year won 58-57 at home against Clovis West, which would go on to place second to Bullard for the D-I title.
The Broncos on Wednesday then virtually locked it up with Chris Freeman’s layup off Slater’s spinning assist, and two Slater free throws for a 78-72 advantage with 32 seconds to go.
The game’s key sequence had occurred with 5:30 left and the Golden Eagles leading 64-62.
Slater drove and was fouled by Khaneal Mason, his fourth. A senior and outstanding defender, Mason disputed the call and was assessed a technical, fouling him out of the game.
Slater then made two free throws, and Eric Mullins and Slater each scored on drives for a Broncos 68-64 lead.
Friday, TRAC play continues with Clovis North visiting Clovis and Clovis West going to No. 2 Central.
By Andy Boogaard