Cats take advantage of inside superiority

Clovis junior Tizrick Phillips chipped in eight points and three assists. CNJ photo by Eric Kluth.

Dave Wagner

As expected, the Clovis High boys basketball team got back on the winning track Tuesday night.

Now the Wildcats have some time to prepare for rival Hobbs in next Tuesday’s key District 4-5A showdown at Rock Staubus Gym.

Clovis took advantage of its inside superiority to pull away from visiting Carlsbad 98-68 in a contest featuring 59 fouls, including two technicals, and 82 free-throw attempts.

Senior Justin Pinckney and junior Dominique Easterlin each scored 23 points, combining to go 15-for-19 from the field against the smaller Cavemen, as the Cats (17-4, 2-1 district) bounced back from their 10-point loss on Saturday at Eldorado.

The win was the 300th as a high school coach at CHS and Grady for Clovis’ J.D. Isler, whose switch from man-to-man defense to a 2-3 zone after halftime helped protect the Cats from serious foul problems and seemed to throw the Cavemen (8-11, 0-2) off stride.

“Normally, they like to shoot a lot of 3s,” Isler said of the Cavemen. “I thought we were on them tight enough (in the first half) where we made it tough for them.”

Clovis, which had lost three of its last five since its second seven-game winning streak of the season, took the lead for good 5-3 on a 3-pointer by Easterlin with 6:17 left in the opening quarter.

But the Cats didn’t begin to put some distance between themselves and Carlsbad until late in the half. They led 49-35 at the intermission, then needed less than three minutes to bump the margin to 24 when play resumed.

“It was pretty hard to get in a rhythm tonight,” Isler said. “We felt like we had to keep them off the line in the second half.”
Senior guard Bud Willis added 18 points and nine assists despite a bout with the flu which kept him out of school on Monday.

“Bud was sick yesterday, but he really pushed the ball well for us,” Isler said. “That’s something we haven’t really been doing lately.”

Willis said it took the Cats a while to figure out the Cavemen.

“We just had to see how Carlsbad was playing; they’re all pretty quick,” he said. “Once we figured it out, the game just came to us.

“We’ve struggled a little bit. Tonight we just said, ‘Let’s get over this.’ All these games are big in district.”

Easterlin has been plagued by fouls in several games, and spent some time on the bench for that reason against the Cavemen. But he still went 7-for-8 from the field, including two 3-pointers, and also grabbed a team-leading 10 rebounds.

“Dominique is definitely one of our top players,” Willis said. “I don’t think anybody in the state can hold him.

“One of the things I like about this team is we all play like a team. We don’t mind passing it off so someone else can shoot it, and that’s one of the reasons we’re having a winning season.”

Senior guard Matt Galindo scored 18 points for the Cavemen before getting his fifth foul on a technical in the final minute. Sophomore guard Alex Bustos added 13 points and junior forward Tanner Nygren scored 11.

Hobbs (16-3, 1-0) will have to make the same Friday-Saturday trip to Albuquerque this weekend that the Cats just finished.

“I think the Hobbs game is coming at a good time for us,” Isler said. “It’s not hard for us to get up for Hobbs.”

Clovis 98, Carlsbad 68
Carlsbad (6-11, 0-2) — Chance McCoy 0 0-0 0, Matt Galindo 4 8-10 18, A.J. Rodriguez 2 2-4 7, Joey Ongaga 2 0-2 4, Andrew Brooks 0 0-0 0, Jeff Forrest 2 2-2 6, Alex Bustos 2 8-12 13, Matt Gadbury 1 0-0 2, Tanner Nygren 2 7-8 11, Riley Neatherlin 1 0-0 2, Torrey Rodriguez 2 1-1 5. Totals 18-44 28-39 68.
Clovis (17-4, 2-1) — Bud Willis 4-6 10-11 18, Tizrick Phillips 3-4 1-2 8, Zac Watters 3-8 3-4 9, Jacob Jones 0-0 0-0 0, Elliott Hita 2-3 1-3 5, John Props 0-0 0-0 0, Justin Pinckney 8-11 7-7 23, Devin Sweet 1-2 0-0 2, Dominique Easterlin 7-8 7-9 23, Mario Caswell 3-5 2-7 8, Jermaine Davis 1-3 0-0 2. Totals 32-50 31-43 98.
Carlsbad 14 21 15 18 — 68
Clovis 25 24 22 27 — 98

3-pointers — Carlsbad 4-13 (Galindo 2, Bustos, A.J. Rodriguez), Clovis 3-8 (Easterlin 2-2, Phillips 1-1, Davis 0-1, Props 0-1, Watters 0-3). Rebounds — Carlsbad 20, Clovis 36 (Easterlin 10). Assists — Carlsbad n/a, Clovis 20 (Willis 9). Total fouls — Carlsbad 30, Clovis 29. Fouled out — Galindo, Neatherlin, T. Rodriguez. Technical fouls — Galindo, Phillips.