By Paul Meadors, Sports Editor
Clovis North played the games because Jordan Rutledge would have had it no other way.
The Broncos hosted the 2nd annual Valley Children’s Hospital Tip-Off Classic the weekend of December 3-5, an eight-team tournament emphasizing players’ interaction with children who are undergoing treatment at the hospital.
A tournament with a great cause indeed and yet, the Broncos played their final two games with a heavy heart.
Thursday night after their opening round win against Pleasant Valley, Rutledge, the 22-year old brother of senior guard Jahvon Johnson, passed away suddenly in his home.
He was a fixture at Clovis North basketball games, fist-pumping and hi-fiving Bronco players before and after games from his wheelchair just beyond the boundaries of the court. Joining Jordan was mom, Mikki, and sister, Seraya, forming a tight bond through basketball, always cheering on Jahvon and their beloved Broncos.
He was their biggest fan, and the face of the program.
“The emotions surrounding the passing of Jahvon’s brother was very high,” said Amundsen. “Jordan and Jahvon’s family are loved by the Clovis North Basketball family and community and it was and is a difficult time, but I was glad that we could all get together as a community and be there for each other Friday and Saturday night.
“Jahvon played his heart out and played very well because he knows that is what Jordan would want.”
Yes, basketball is secondary to the life of a young man taken too soon, and brother Jahvon played like a true champion in a loss to Newark Memorial 79-67 the night after Jordan’s passing. The next game he pumped in 16 points to help beat Centennial 74-72 for third place.
Jahvon, just like brother Jordan, is a warrior indeed.
Coach Amundsen, a coach who invests in the well-being of every one of his players on and off the court, was proud how his team responded in such difficult circumstances.
“We played very well against Centennial in the first half and we did a good job of managing the game in the 4th quarter,” said Amundsen, the third year Bronco coach. “It was a total team effort. Jahvon did a great job of in making his teammates better by setting them up with open shots and Jonah [Brown] did a great job of finishing.”
No doubt about Brown finishing, as he scored a career high 36 points with a mix of three pointers, drives and layups, using his 6’3” height and his quick release to his advantage.
But the Broncos body of work was not complete: They rolled their success into the following week at the Pleasant Valley Invitational Tournament and won the championship, beating the host school 55-41.
Ben Avera and Brown were named to the all-tournament team. The MVP? You guessed it – Jahvon Johnson.
And the spirit of Jordan Rutledge will live forever in the heart of Bronco Nation as the outpouring of love and support rose up quickly with t-shirts and banners declaring Rutledge as “Forever Our 6th Man.”
A celebration service of the life of Jordan Rutledge was held on Sunday, December 13 at the Clovis North gym. People can visit gofundme.com to financially support the Johnson family.