The Eastern New Mexico News - Serving Clovis, Portales and the Surrounding Communities

By Peter Stein
Staff Writer 

'Cats a wrap

Clovis boys basketball season ends with 20 wins

 

March 13, 2019

Kevin Wilson

Ro Morgan (11) is one of several Clovis players returning next year after the Wildcats look to build on a 20-9 season.

On Monday night, having had 48 hours to absorb his team's 78-67 season-ending loss at Hobbs, one thing hadn't changed in two days for Clovis boys basketball head coach Jaden Isler.

He was proud of how a mostly-young team dealing with a new system and new coaches had competed, had battled to win a District 4-5A championship and made its return to the state tournament.

Isler played for Clovis when state-tournament appearances and deep runs in them were routine. He had also previously experienced that feeling as a coach, guiding the Elida girls team to four consecutive state championships from 2015-18.

Last year, Isler returned to the Clovis boys program where he began, where his father J.D. once coached. He wanted to bring that winning feeling back to Clovis, and the 2018-19 Wildcats did get to enjoy some of it.

"I thought this season was a really, really important step in our process of trying to become one of the state's elite teams again," Isler said. "And I give all the credit to my coaching staff. Coach Pickett did a great job running our defensive strategies all year. And I give a lot of credit to our kids. They found a way to win a lot of close games this year. ... They really set the tone for our program moving forward. It's hard to win playoff games if you haven't been there."

Clovis improved from 9-17 last season to 20-9 this year. Among those 20 victories was that district title the 'Cats won on March 2 against the same Hobbs team that would eliminate them from states a week later. Hobbs wound up winning the season's head-to-head meetings 3-2.

"It's a tough matchup to play somebody for the fifth time in a season in a first-round game," Isler said. "Our kids took on that challenge and came up a little short. ... But I was really proud of our kids. It's the first (state) playoff game that a lot of our kids played. I don't think our kids have anything to hold their heads down about."

Clovis graduates four seniors - Anthony Gutierrez, Jacob Moon, Dominick Urioste and Montez Wright. The first three of those players were season-long parts of Isler's rotation.

Gutierrez had almost no varsity experience coming into this season, but managed to be a key player nonetheless. "Man, what a season he had," said Isler, who also had rave reviews for Moon and Urioste.

"Jacob Moon had a great second half of the year after coming back from injury," Isler said. "Dominick Urioste had an early-season injury and as a senior was so unselfish for us, playing in our second five, and really brought us a different dimension. Those seniors deserve a lot of credit for being so unselfish and buying in very quickly. They put our program back on the map this year."

Next season's Wildcats will look to conquer some more of that map.

"I'm excited about our group of juniors," Isler said. "We have a large group of juniors that got a lot of experience this year, played a lot of minutes. I expect them to take that experience and move forward with even better senior years."

The juniors who played quality minutes for Isler this season were center Bryce Cabeldue, guards Dewayne Dawson and Malik Phillips, and forwards Mason Figueroa, Ethan Gershon and Ro Morgan.

"And we had a couple of sophomores (Blake Muscato and Jaden Phillips) who, due to injuries, got a lot of valuable minutes, which can only help them as sophomores. Experience is everything in sports. To play in big moments can only benefit you."

 
 

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