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Cats trying to stay focused

Clovis junior Dominique Easterlin and Wildcats coach J.D. Isler vists on the sidelines during a recent game. Photo by Eric Kluth

Coming off a pulsating win at rival Hobbs last week, the Clovis High boys basketball team is trying not to get ahead of itself.

The Wildcats would love a chance to return to Hobbs in the District 4-5A tournament semifinals on Friday and prove their 96-95 verdict over the Eagles was not a fluke. But first, they’ll have to take care of today’s 7:30 p.m. matchup against Manzano at Rock Staubus Gym.

And even though the Cats (20-6) have beaten Manzano twice during district play, another win isn’t a given, CHS coach J.D. Isler said.

“That’s why they play these district games; anybody can win on any given night,” Isler said. “I just want us to play with the same mentality we do against Hobbs. If we have that same mentality, we’ll be awful tough to beat.

“We’ve felt all along that we’re as good as anybody in the state. We should be excited about playing.”

The Monarchs (12-11), seeded fourth in the five-team district tourney, advanced on Monday with a 70-60 win over Carlsbad in Albuquerque.

Key players for Manzano include 6-foot senior post Rodney Ferguson and 6-1 sophomore wing Paul Gabaldon. Both had 16 points in Clovis’ 75-55 win here on Feb. 13, but Ferguson battled fouls most of the night and Gabaldon scored only two points in a first half which ended with the Cats leading 41-17.

“We tried to double-team Rodney every time he got the ball, and we’ll try to do the same thing this time,” Isler said. “Gabaldon can hit shots if you give him open looks, and we’ll try to take that away.”

CHS junior Dominique Easterlin said the win at Hobbs gives the Cats a boost as tournament time approaches.

“We just came out ready to go,” he said. “The game gave us a lot of confidence and lets us know we can go out there and beat anybody.”

The Cats want to get the game going at a fast pace against the Monarchs.

“We want to make them run because I think it affects Ferguson,” Isler said. “Even if we’re not shooting that well, we want to make them run every time we can.”

Easterlin admitted it’s hard not to look ahead to a possible return trip to Hobbs, but said the Cats have to stay focused on the business at hand.

“Really, we just want to take it one game at a time,” he said. “You can’t rush into things. We’ve just got to go out and run our break and be able to rebound.”

Manzano (12-11) at Clovis (20-6)

District 4-5A tournament game

7:30 p.m. tonight, Rock Staubus Gym

Notes: Clovis, seeded third, swept the No. 4-seeded Monarchs in the season series, winning handily at home 75-55. The Wildcats needed a 28-5 fourth-quarter surge to pull out a 67-52 victory in the first meeting in Albuquerque. … The Monarchs are led by 6-0 senior P Rodney Ferguson (19 ppg, 8 rpg) and 6-1 sophomore G Paul Gabaldon, a 3-point threat, while 5-6 sophomore PG Cesar Cuevas averages around five assists. … Manzano advanced in the tournament with a 70-60 win at home over Carlsbad on Monday. … Clovis, coming off a 96-95 win at Hobbs on Friday on junior John Props’ late 3-pointer, has three players averaging in double figures — senior F Justin Pinckney (18.3), junior F Dominique Easterlin (15.2) and senior PG Bud Willis (11.3). … The winner gets a date at second-seeded Hobbs on Friday, with that winner clinching a regional berth and playing at top-seeded Eldorado in Saturday’s district championship game.