Cats, Lady Cats post wins
Last updated 1/8/2022 at 3:57pm
CLOVIS - Clovis High's boys have found the sledding tough in several close games this season.
Thursday afternoon at Rock Staubus Gym, they finally got one to go their way.
The Wildcats held Espanola Valley to just three points in the third quarter and 14 for the second half in rallying to claim a 48-42 victory.
Senior guard Juan Hernandez scored 11 of his game-high 17 points in the third period while senior guard Luciano Webster added all 10 of his points in the final stanza, including 8-for-12 from the free throw line, as Clovis (2-11) used trapping pressure defense to help erase a seven-point halftime deficit.
"We weren't playing bad," CHS boys coach Jaden Isler said of the first half. "We got in enough foul trouble (three players sat stretches in the first two segments with two fouls) that we ended up playing our entire bench, and they did a good job of getting some turnovers."
The Cats pulled ahead 34-31 going into the final canto and never relinquished the lead, committing just two turnovers in the period. They left some points on the floor, though, going 10-for-19 from the line in the frame.
"We've been in those situations before," Isler said. "I remember about three possessions where we didn't handle it that well, but I think they're starting to learn how to close a game a little better."
Three Sundevils starters fouled out in a fruitless effort at a comeback.
"They're a tough team," Webster said. "We missed a lot of shots (late), but just being in that position helps make us better."
Espanola Valley (11-5), ranked second in Class 4A by MaxPreps, scored the game's first six points in just over a minute and led the entire half, although the Cats got within three shortly before the intermission on a 3-pointer by junior guard Brian Weiss.
Webster said he wasn't named for the late Italian opera star Luciano Pavarotti and added that, in fact, it's his middle name - Richard is his actual first name.
He nailed 3-of-4 free throws in the first minute of the fourth quarter to extend the lead to six, and kept going from there as the Cats stubbornly maintained their advantage.
"We knew our press was going to put a lot of pressure on them," Webster said. "Obviously, it worked for us."
Senior guard Jayden Martinez, who fouled out in the final minute, had 11 points for Espanola Valley but was the team's only player with more than six. The Sundevils, who dropped their third in a row, were coming off competitive losses to Rio Rancho and Hope Christian.
Saturday, the Cats expected a tough road challenge at Santa Fe High (11-2), currently ranked fourth in Class 5A. This week, they visit Canyon Randall on Tuesday and Cibola on Friday.
Clovis girls 60, Lovington 29 (Tuesday) - At The Rock, the Lady Wildcats cruised as nine players scored, led by sophomore guard Zarai Lewis with 11 points and senior post Mya Slade with 10.
CHS girls coach Jeff Reed said the effort was fine, but added that his team will have to pick things up as it enters the tougher part of the schedule which includes games at Volcano Vista and Roswell Goddard, home against Portales and home-and-homes against District 4-5A rivals Hobbs and Carlsbad.
"There wasn't really a good flow or rhythm to the game," Reed said. "We've really got to start playing sharper and better if we want to make a playoff run, because we're fixin' to go to a different level of competition."
Reed said the Lady Cats' goal is to earn a Class 5A round-of-16 home game and advance to state quarterfinals at The Pit in Albuquerque, something they haven't done since 2015. They've lost twice in the round-of-16 since then.
Clovis (12-4) was never in any danger, but blew the game open with a 17-4 charge in the third quarter to open a 25-point cushion. Sophomore Elizabeth Buendia was the only player in double digits for Lovington (4-9) with 10 points.
The Lady Cats are idle until visiting Volcano Vista on Friday and Lovington on Saturday.