FRESNO -- Clovis West's pressure and how it would affect a Stockdale High team missing its starting point guard was a primary worry of Mustang coaches Glenn Hager and Charles Stewart on Saturday.
The worry turned into reality.
The Mustangs struggled mightily against the Clovis West press and ball-hawking defense in a 53-38 Golden Eagles' win for the Central Section Division I girls title, the 13th section title in Clovis West's girls basketball history.
For Stockdale (23-5), it all unraveled in a nightmarish second quarter.
The Mustangs led 11-6 after the first quarter and made it 13-6 when Dakota Oliver scored on the opening possession of the second quarter. Clovis West (23-5) scored the next 18 points, sparked by three straight 3-pointers in the opening 1:31 of the quarter.
Emily Anderson, considered Clovis West's best shooter, hit two of those, and added another later in the quarter.
"We had trouble getting our shots. We went through three different offenses before we got it going,” Clovis West coach Craig Campbell said. “Those three straight 3s got us going.”
Hager agreed it was a turning point.
“Our 1-3-1 was working well,” the Mustangs co-coach said of his team’s first-quarter defense. “Those 3s changed the whole flow of the game.”
As for Anderson being left wide open numerous times, Hager said: “We could have had our hands up. We could’ve done a better job. You can’t leave a shooter like that unguarded.”
Stockdale was also hampered by the loss of senior starting point guard Jazmin Miller, who suffered a knee injury in the Mustangs’ quarterfinal win over Porterville-Monache and was on crutches Saturday.
“She’s our starting point guard. You can figure it out,” Hager said of Miller’s absence. “But aside from that, we needed to do a better job making our shots.”
Campbell said Miller’s absence had a major impact on the game.
“She’s an impact player,” Campbell said. “A good ballhandler and in the games we scouted them, when they needed a score, she would get it to the right people.”
Clovis West outscored the Mustangs 18-4 in the second quarter. Stockdale was only 1-for-14 from the floor and had five turnovers.
Senior guard Asia Cooks did all of the Mustangs’ ballhandling and often was forced to work against as many as four defenders as she moved up court.
Cooks was a force on defense — she had nine steals — but had seven turnovers and was 1-of-14 shooting.
Leigha Moland had 14 points and tied Cooks for the team lead with nine rebounds. Oliver added 10 points.
Shooting guard Portia Neale had 18 points to lead Clovis West.
“They’re not as deep as we are,” Campbell said. “Our intent was to grind them down.”
Hager and Stewart have announced their resignation as Stockdale coaches at the end of this season. Hager leads all Central Section girls basketball coaches with 446 victories.
“This was not the way to end our career,” Stewart said. “We wanted to play better. We know we’re better than we showed tonight.”
It was the fifth time in the last seven years that Stockdale has played Clovis West in the D-I finals. Stockdale’s only win in those matchups was in 2009.
“You don’t get here without the players we’ve had,” Stewart said.
“I feel blessed with the great kids we’ve had here,” Hager said. “Stockdale has been very good to us.”
The Mustangs are expected to earn a Southern California playoff berth when the matchups are announced today.