By Eric Butler
ALBUQUERQUE — Clovis’ 16-and-under Amateur Athletic Union basketball team won the boys state title on Sunday and, in the process, took care of a little unfinished business.
With a 75-51 rout of the El Paso Warriors at Albuquerque’s Manzano High, the Wildcats avenged a loss in the championship of an earlier AAU tourney. On Sunday, Justin Pinckney and Tig Bunton scored 21 and 20 points respectively to lead Clovis.
The crown qualifies Clovis for the national AAU tournament late next month in Orlando, Fla.
Although the two squads of soon-to-be-juniors in high school meet infrequently during the short Amateur Athletic Union season, rivalry is evident.
“We’ve played them a couple of times in El Paso. We beat them once and they beat us the last two times,” said Portales’ Chris Carter, the only non-Clovis player for the Wildcats.
“We just want to beat them bad,” added Carter, who scored 16 points in the title game. “Their fans talk, our fans talk. Their coach talks, our coach talks. The players talk — it’s just a rivalry.”
Wildcats coach Jerry Loya said his players “wanted this win more than anything else.”
They took control early.
Clovis led 24-6 at the end of one quarter and 39-21 at intermission. The El Paso squad, down 44-23, made a run with eight consecutive points midway through the third quarter.
Bunton ended the streak by scoring a bucket with 2:33 left in the third. Then Pinckney, showing a wide array of offensive talents, scored 13 of the ’Cats next 16 points as Clovis pulled out to a 62-38 advantage.
“We knew they could come back at any time, but we just kept on playing,” Pinckney said. “I saw them coming back, so I just started looking for my shot a little more.”
Clovis won a semifinal game earlier in the day on Sunday by mowing down Carlsbad 91-58. Dominique Easterlin led the Wildcats with 18 points in that game.
“We haven’t been to nationals in a couple of years,” Carter said. “We just want to go win. We don’t want to go up there to have fun. I mean, we probably will, but we just want to win.”