Cats’ slow starts cause for concern

Rick White

Of course Clovis coach J.D. Isler is concerned his team has lost three times in five games. But there’s no reason to panic, the third-year Wildcats basketball coach said.

“We just need to keep everything in perspective,” Isler said. “We just need to keep doing the things in practice it takes to get better.

“Mentally, we can’t feel like every time we lose a game it’s the end of the world. There’s plenty of district play ahead of us and we just need to stay focused on our goal.”

The Wildcats (16-4, 1-1 in district) look to get back on track tonight when they host Carlsbad (8-10, 0-1) in a District 4-5A contest.

The Cavemen opened district play last week with a 102-67 loss to Hobbs but rebounded to beat Gadsen 49-47 Saturday in a non-district contest.

“They’re a scrappy team in the two years I’ve been here,” Isler said. “I told the kids we can’t take anybody for granted in district.”

The Wildcats are coming of a road split over the weekend at Manzano and Eldorado to start District 4-5A play.
Clovis senior Justin Pinckney pointed to little things that have hurt the Wildcats recently — such as cutting off picks and being out of position on defense.

“The last two games we haven’t come out with the same intensity we had early in the year,” said the 6-foot-2 Pinckney, the Wildcats’ leading scorer at 18 points a game. “Mostly we’re just not getting big stops or shutting teams down.”

In all three recent losses, the Wildcats have allowed more than 70 points after holding teams to an average in the mid 50s during their 13-1 start.

Clovis needed a furious fourth-quarter rally to beat Manzano (67-52) Friday but couldn’t overcome another slow start Saturday in a 79-69 loss to Eldorado. The district-leading Eagles (11-5, 2-0) scored the game’s first 10 points and led 25-8 after one quarter.

“My biggest concern is we’ve come out timid early,” Isler said. “It’s like we’re coming out trying not to lose instead of coming out aggressive and trying to win.”

Isler said the Wildcats never quit against Eldorado even though they trailed by 22 at one point.

“We kept making runs at them and I really think the kids believed they could come back and beat them,” Isler said. “I think we just ran out of time.”

With teams doing a lot of scouting and game planning this time of season, Isler said the Wildcats need to be sharper at both ends of the floor than they’ve been recently.

“I’d be more concerned if we’d been getting blown out, but we lost one game in overtime (74-72 at Lubbock Coronado) and another we were tied with 40 seconds to go (77-72 at Alamogordo),” Isler said. “We’re scoring enough points. We just haven’t been sharp defensively, and part of that is we haven’t been coming out aggressive.”

Game Day
Clovis (18-2, 2-0)
at Carlsbad (12-5, 0-1)

When: 7:45 p.m. tonight
What: District 4-5A game
Last time out: Clovis beat visiting Eldorado 86-52. Carlsbad lost at home to Hobbs 51-37.
Last meeting: Clovis beat Carlsbad 36-25 in February 2003.
Carlsbad players to watch: Senior P Anne Hellebust is averaging 19 points and 8 rebounds. Sophomore JoJo Calderon scored nine points off the bench in the loss to Hobbs.
Clovis players to watch: Sophomore PG Tori Quintana hit a season-high six 3-pointers against Eldorado and sophomore Aimee Hilburn added 13 points, seven rebounds and eight assists.
Notes: The Cavegirls lost senior PG Katie Hellebust before the season started to a knee injury. … Clovis hasn’t lost since dropping back-to-back games in December at the Mel Otero Tournament in Rio Rancho
Quotable: “We’ve had trouble scoring in the past against their 1-2-2 matchup zone. It really seems to give us trouble down there.” — Clovis coach Miles Watters.

Carlsbad (8-10, 0-1)
at Clovis (16-4, 1-1)

When: 7:45 p.m. tonight
Where: Rock Staubus Gym
What: District 4-5A game
Last time out: Carlsbad beat Gadsen 49-47. Clovis lost at Eldorado 79-69.
Last meeting: Clovis beat Carlsbad 72-49 in February 2003
Carlsbad players to watch: Senior G Matt Galindo is the Cavemen’s leading scorer and a streaky shooter. Torrey Rodriguez scored 11 points against Gadsen.
Clovis players to watch: Senior G Bud Willis scored a career-high 19 points in the Eldorado loss. Junior P Dominique Easterlin had 24 against Manzano.
Notes: Clovis has lost three of its last five games after a 13-1 start. … Carlsbad has twice beaten Gadsen, ranked fifth in last week’s Class 5A Associated Press poll. … Clovis coach J.D. Isler expects the Cavemen will try to slow the tempo of the game.
Quotable: “They’ve been a scrappy team the two years I’ve been here. I told the kids we can’t take anybody for granted.” — Clovis coach JD. Isler.