SportStars Magazine

Clayton Valley’s Boy Basketball Team Is Rare Air

Clayton Valley Charter Boys Basketball

With 25 Wins And A Ticket To The Section Semifinals, The Ugly Eagles Boys Basketball Team Is Near Uncharted Altitude 

Outside the Clayton Valley Charter boys basketball varsity team room, the locker room is practically still at 8:35 on a Friday night in late February.

For a moment, all that’s audible is the slow, methodical drip of a faucet.

And then, through the closed team room door comes the deep, unmistakable voice of Ugly Eagles coach Eric Bamberger.

“We won that game playing our pace. In our house. With our system,” he bellowed. “That’s it, guys. That’s the formula.”

It’s a formula that’s taking Clayton Valley boys basketball to heights it hasn’t seen in more than a decade.

Victory Over Visiting Monte Vista

Bamberger’s rallying cry came approximately 10 minutes after the horn sounded on a 68-59 victory over visiting Monte Vista in the quarterfinals of the North Coast Section Division I tournament.

To most, it was merely a No. 1 seed taking care of business against a No. 8 seed. Those who have followed Clayton Valley Charter boys basketball for any extended period of time, know better.

Clayton Valley Charter Boys Basketball

Junior guard Zack Martinez glides to the basket for a layup in Clayton Valley 68-59 playoff win over Monte Vista.

The Feb. 23 win over Monte Vista put the Ugly Eagles in the NCS semifinal round for the first time in 12 seasons.

Clayton Valley will host No. 4-seed Berkeley (22-5) on Feb. 28 — and will be aiming to reach its first NCS final since losing the 2005 Div. II championship game to a San Ramon Valley team led by eventual Saint Mary’s College star, Omar Samhan.

Clayton Valley has never won an NCS title. This team has as good a chance as any to end that drought.

“Everyone can go at any time. We don’t have one guy who’s on the team just to be on the team,” said senior forward Nick Klarman, who finished the quarterfinal with game-highs in both points (17) and rebounds (11).

“Everyone is here to play a role, and everyone puts in the time. And whoever gets the call, he’s ready.”

11-0 Record For Clayton Valley Charter Boys Basketball

Clayton Valley Charter boys basketball improved to 25-2 with the win, as well as a perfect 11-0 record on their own floor.

But, Monte Vista, a program which won back-to-back NCS Div. I titles in 2014 and 2015, didn’t make it easy on them.

The Mustangs only trailed by one (35-34) at the half, and that was only after Clayton Valley was able to score the last five points before the break.

Additionally, Monte Vista hung tough for the first few minutes of the second half before an 11-2 Eagles run opened up a nine-point lead that would never get any smaller.

“They’re good,” Monte Vista coach Nick Jones said of Clayton Valley Charter boys basketball team afterward. “You have to guard 5 guys. And when they sub, you have to guard those guys too. 

Lastly, they play their style. They own their style. The kids buy into it. They make shots. They’re tough.”

Double Figures

Clayton Valley had seven players score in the win, four of whom reached double figures.

Not surprisingly, three of those players were the teams’ senior core of Klarman, guard Garrett Pascoe (13 points, seven assists) and center J.D. Williams (14 points, six rebounds).

But, as Jones noted, the team’s depth is what makes it so difficult to compete against.

Junior guard Jeryn Williams scored 10 points off the bench, scoring in all four quarters. Backup point guard Cooper Dadami has also had big games off the bench this season, as has Sinjin Speer and others.

Clayton Valley Charter Boys Basketball

Senior guard Garrett Pascoe brings the ball up the floor during the second half against Monte Vista.

“With this pace (we play), you run a lot and you have to have depth for stamina; and you get in foul trouble a lot,” Bamberger said.

“Our practice style is 5-on-5, run-and-gun. There’s hardly any drills where we’re sitting in the half court. These guys have got to be able to play on the run, make their mistakes, learn from their mistakes and play.”

Clayton Valley has proven awfully adept at forcing opponents into their own mistakes.

Monte Vista finished with 24 turnovers in their loss to the Ugly Eagles. Others have known similar fates.

Biggest Key To His Team’s Success

But Bamberger believes the biggest key to his team’s success over the rest of the postseason is trust.

“Trust the system. Really trust it,” said the coach who has 89 wins in four-plus seasons with the Ugly Eagles.

“We might get down 20 early. We might get down 30, but trust it. … With our pace we can bring it back. Most of them have been in the program three to four years and they’ve bought into the system. And that’s truly hard to get these days. Also, they’ve bought into the system: We’re going to press, we’re going to run. It’s what we do.”

Should they win that first section title, there’s still some ambiguity as to what would come next. There’s a good chance they’d draw a mid-to-late seed in the eight-team CIF Northern Regional Open Division – a bracket that hosts the top eight teams in the region regardless of enrollment.

And Bamberger would be OK with that.

“The Open, I think is your goal,” Bamberger said. “If you’re truly a competitor, which these guys are, it’s your goal.”

For now, however, they’ll just work on trusting and perfecting the formula.

Story By CHACE BRYSON | Photos By PHILLIP WALTON

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