Senior Irshaun Pinckney, shown here against Carlsbad, leads a strong Clovis inside game that figures to give Hobbs trouble in tonight’s game. CNJ photo by Eric Kluth.
Clovis and Hobbs are finding out that three’s a crowd.
After dominating District 4-5A since it was formed in 2000, Clovis and Hobbs in an unfamiliar position — in second place looking up at Eldorado two weeks into the district season.
Clovis and Hobbs have already lost at Eldorado, which means the loser of tonight’s district contest between the longtime rivals at Rock Staubus Gym will fall two games out of the district lead.
Eldorado is 3-0 district play. Clovis and Hobbs are an identical 17-4 overall and 2-1 in district.
Hobbs coach Russ Gilmore is well aware there’s a lot at stake.
“In the past, us and Clovis have always been able to beat the Albuquerque schools,” sixth-year Hobbs coach Russ Gilmore said. “But it’s awfully early, and anything can happen in basketball. The thing is you always want to be in control of your own destiny.”
Clovis coach J.D. Isler is more concerned about his team protecting its home court.
“I think you’ve got to win your home games if your going to win the district,” Isler said. “You can still make the regional tournament, but it’s hard to win district.”
Hobbs will be playing its third road game in five days, but Gilmore doesn’t see it as a factor. The Eagles will still run and press as always, he said.
“It’s definitely not to our advantage, but we’ve been in this situation before. We only play one way, so that’s what we’ll do.”
The Eagles are led by high-scoring senior guard Earvin Youmans, who averages 26.9 points and 5.3 assists a game, but do not have the talent they’d had when Gilmore led them to state titles in his first four years at the school.
“We’re not nearly as talented as we’ve been. That’s not a secret. But that doesn’t mean we can’t be just as successful,” Gilmore said. “We’re relying a little more on our perimeter game than in past.”
A weakness that sets up nicely for Clovis, which counters a strong inside game led by senior Justin Pinckney (20 ppg) and junior Dominique Easterlin (16.2 ppg and nine rpg.)
“We feel like we can take advantage of our posts,” Isler said. “In the past they’ve had really good post players to go along with their perimeter game.”
Isler said the key to beating Hobbs is converting against its full-court press.
“When you play them, you have to convert your 2-on-1s and 3-on-2s,” Isler said. “You can’t settle for jump shots because that just plays into their hands.
“We’ve got to be aggressive going to the basket.”
Hobbs (17-4, 2-1)
at Clovis (17-4, 2-1)
When: 7:45 p.m. tonight
Where: Rock Staubus Gymnasium
Radio: KCLV 1240 AM, 98.3 FM
:At state: Sole possession of second place in District 4-5A.
Last time out: Hobbs beat Manzano 83-74 Saturday. Clovis beat Carlsbad 98-68 Tuesday.
Last meeting: Hobbs beat Clovis 83-74 on March 1, 2003, in the 4-5A tournament title game.
Keys to the game: Hobbs traditionally scores points in bunches. Clovis must limit the runs. Clovis’ strength is inside, especially scoring. Hobbs is perimeter-oriented.
Hobbs players to watch: Senior G Earvin Youmans (26.9 ppg, 5.3 apg), senior G Benny Baeza (12.6 ppg).
Notes: Hobbs is playing for the third time in five days and by the time the week is over will have played five district games in nine days. … Clovis, meanwhile, hasn’t played in a week and are in the middle of playing three district games in 15 days … Hobbs beat Clovis three times last year.
Tickets: Lower-level tickets are sold out. Lower-level tickets can be purchased at the CHS athletic office: $4 for adults, $3 for students; or at the door: $5 for adults and students, $3 for senior citizens.
Quotable: “He has such a quick release. He can get off a shot even if you’re right on him.” — Clovis coach J.D. Isler on Youmans.