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Clovis tops Canyon


Last updated 1/14/2020 at 5:38pm

Kevin Wilson

Clovis guard Mason Figueroa chases after a ball he poked loose from Canyon's Jett Meek in the second half of Monday's game at Rock Staubus Gymnasium. Figueroa had 12 points in the 73-54 victory.

CLOVIS — Were you ready for some … basketball?

In a rare Monday-nighter at Rock Staubus Gymnasium, the Clovis boys basketball team hosted a Texas visitor, this time from Canyon. And after a tight first quarter and a mostly-close second, the Wildcats breezed away for a 73-54 victory.

The Monday-night scheduling gave Clovis less time to wait before trying to bounce back from Saturday night’s loss to 2019 state finalist Santa Fe in the capitol. And, playing a Texas team is always a good challenge, beating one a nice achievement.

“They’ve played a lot of games. They usually play more games than us throughout their season,” Clovis head coach Jaden Isler said. “So it you gives you a chance to play somebody that already might be in mid-season form or post-season form; they’re about to start district already this week. They’ve kinda gone through some of their ups and downs and lined out what they need to get fixed, so you’re playing a team that’s maybe a little bit more matured into their season, if that makes sense. So I think it gives us a good test. Plus Canyon’s a well-coached team and we know they’re going to be physical; we know playoff games here in New Mexico are going to be physical and fast. So I think it just gives us previews into what we’ll see as we keep going toward district play.”

“Beating a Texas team is always good because Texas is real big in sports,” Wildcats junior guard Blake Muscato said after scoring nine of his 12 points during Clovis’ big second half. “Like in football we beat (Lubbock) Monterey to give us a spark to go all the way to the state semifinals. So hopefully this one can give us a spark to go deep in the playoffs in basketball.”

“It’s pretty big because the Texas teams are pretty good,” Clovis senior guard Malik Phillips said. “So we came out here and we came to play against them.”

Still, the way Monday’s first quarter unfolded it seemed like anyone’s game. The largest lead by either team in the quarter was two points, held by Clovis four different times – 2-0, 9-7, 11-9 and 13-11. There were three ties (2-2, 9-9, 13-13), five one-point leads and five lead changes. The 13-all tie was the score going into the second quarter.

The game’s fourth tie was 16-16 early in the second, but that was when Clovis started to gain a little separation. Malik Phillips buried a right-corner trey which, as it turned out, put the Wildcats ahead for good. On Clovis’ next possession, Ethan Gershon scored three of his game-high 16 points by hitting a straightaway trey that made it 22-16.

Clovis stretched its lead to as much as 29-21 late in the half, but Canyon guard Jarrad Gomez sank a three-pointer to make it a 29-24 game, and it was still a five-point contest, 31-26, at halftime.

“Honestly, I thought we played really well in the first half,” Isler said. “I thought we kinda wore ’em down a little bit.”

And in the third quarter, Clovis finally broke away.

Bryce Cabeldue opened the second-half scoring by putting the Wildcats up by seven with an inside one-handed turnaround basket. On the other end, Cabeldue came up with a loose ball and then all six feet-six inches and 245 pounds of him pushed the ball up the floor like a point guard. Cabeldue finished his Nikola Jokic impression by dishing the ball to Dewayne Dawson, who completed the fast break with a layup that gave Clovis a 35-26 advantage.

Canyon hung in it a while longer, shaving the difference to 35-30 before the Wildcats scored nine straight – on a Josiah Lombrana three-point play completed from the line, a Ro Morgan hook, and a four-point play completed from the line by Muscato after he hit a fallaway three from the left corner.

The four-point play is somewhat rare in basketball, even in the NBA. The New York Knicks’ Larry Johnson got one to beat the Indiana Pacers in the 1999 Eastern Conference finals, but it’s hard to remember too many more.

Muscato pulled it off Monday, though, with 4:10 left in the third quarter and the Wildcats trying to put some distance between themselves and Canyon.

“Josiah passed it to me,” Muscato recalled, “and I saw the (Canyon) dude running at me quick. So I pump-faked him and he shot right by me. So I shot it, and two more dudes ran into me. And luckily it went in.”

After the ‘two more dudes’ sent Muscato to the foul line and he hit the free throw, Clovis led 44-30. From then on, the Wildcats’ lead was never less than 12, and it ballooned as high as 25 late in the fourth quarter.

From four ties within the game’s first 10 minutes to a fourth-quarter blowout.

“In the second half we scored the ball a little bit better,” Isler said, “but defensively I was really, really proud of our effort all game long. Something we talked about after the Santa Fe loss was we didn’t feel like our effort was where we needed it to be in that game; not that we played a horrible game, but I felt like we had another level to us. We know we’re running out of games in the season, especially for our seniors, and we’ve got to fix these things now and be in the moment. So I thought we did a really good job (Monday) of coming out fast, and our effort was great. Probably the most steals and deflections we’ve had in a game that I can remember.”

While Canyon fell to 11-9, Clovis improved to 12-5. Next up for the Wildcats is another home game, this time on Saturday against one of the state’s best 5A teams, Volcano Vista. Volcano, a state semifinalist last year, heads into a home game against Albuquerque this Thursday with a 13-1 record. So the Hawks will come into the Rock Saturday as either a 13- or 14-win team.

“Yeah, it should be a good one,” Isler said. “They’re (ranked) No. 2 in the state. … Had a battle with them the first time (this season in the Joe Armijo Classic last month), ended up getting beat by five. So it’ll be nice to have them on our home floor and have a chance to knock off somebody that’s up at the top.”

Kevin Wilson

Clovis senior Ethan Gershon led all scorers with 16 points.


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