Cats relegated to third

Clovis junior John Props drives past Manzano senior Jordan Parks as he tries to get to the baseline during the fourth quarter of Friday’s game at Rock Staubus Gymnasium. Photo by Eric Kluth

By Dave Wagner

Eldorado guard Tyrone Crawford dropped an unexpected bomb on the Clovis High Wildcats Saturday night.

After being virtually non-exsistent the first time the teams met, the 5-foot-11 junior erupted for 21 of his team’s first 23 points and finished with 27 as the Eagles held off CHS 68-66 in a District 4-5A boys matchup at Rock Staubus Gym.

With the win, the Eagles (15-6, 6-1 district) remained in a tie for the 4-5A lead with Hobbs with one game left. Meantime, the Cats (19-6, 4-3) will be relegated to third place when the district tournament begins in just over a week.

Crawford scored just two points in a 79-69 win over Clovis last month in Albuquerque.

The Cats, who played a solid game in dispatching Manzano 75-55 on Friday night, struggled out of the blocks against Eldorado and never quite recovered.

“Tyrone had a good start; he had a lot of energy,” Eldorado coach Roy Sanchez said. “But that’s the thing about our team — different guys step up every night.”

Nothing went right early on for the Cats. Crawford erupt for 12 points in a span of two minutes, capped by back-to-back 3-pointers to give Eldorado a 12-1 cushion.

Crawford’s three-point play put the Eagles up 23-9 with 6:06 to go in the half. But the Cats, who were 0-for-7 from the field with seven turnovers in the opening seven minutes, rallied to pull even in the closing seconds of the half before falling behind 31-29 on a buzzer-beater by the Eagles’ Bryce Burkholder.

Senior Justin Pinckney gave the Cats two one-point leads early in the third quarter, but Eldorado went on a 10-0 run and Clovis was fighting uphill the rest of the night.

The Eagles led 60-50 with 2 1/2 minutes left before the Cats made a late surge. Six-foot-8 junior Daniel Farris hit four consecutive free throws, the last two with 5.3 seconds left for a 68-63 lead, before Clovis’ Bud Willis netted a 3-pointer at the buzzer.

“We weren’t very aggressive early in the game,” CHS coach J.D. Isler said. “Our kids played with a lot of effort. It’s like I told them, ‘If that’s the No. 2 team in (Class 5A), then we’re still right in the hunt.”

Faris finished with 11 points for the Eagles. Five players reached double-figures for the Cats, led by Willis and junior Dominique Easterlin with 16 apiece.

Sanchez said the Eagles, who outshot Clovis from both the field and the free throw line and posted a 30-25 edge on the boards, have regularly dealt with opponents’ comebacks this season.

“We’ve generally jumped ahead of teams early,” he said. “It kind of makes the coach’s chest pound a little at the end. But we have confidence in our bench.

“I don’t know if this was our best game, but at the end of the season you have to play up a notch.”

The loss means the Cats will have to win two games, including one at either Hobbs or Eldorado, to reach the district tournament finals and advance to regionals.

“We could play them again,” Isler said. “We’re not going to be easy to beat three times. We’ve just got to make sure we keep playing hard.

“We’re not out of it by any means.”

Cats rout Manzano
Clovis played suffocating defense in the first half Friday night and cruised to past Manzano.

Easterlin led four Cats in double figures with 24 points on 11-of-15 shooting, and also shared team rebound honors with Mario Caswell by grabbing eight boards. Pinckney added 14 points, Willis 13 and Caswell 12.

Clovis shot 54 percent from the field and held a 32-23 rebounding advantage. The Monarchs (10-11, 1-6) were led in scoring by senior Rodney Ferguson and sophomore Paul Gabaldon, each with 16 points.

The Cats jumped in front 10-0 in the first 3 1/2 minutes and were never seriously threatened. They held Manzano to five field goals and forced 12 turnovers in rolling to a 41-17 lead by the end of the first half.

Easternlin did most of his damage early, outscoring the Monarchs for the half with 18 points by the break.
Manzano never really warmed up until the final quarter, when it hit the game’s only four 3-pointers and went 8-for-16. The Monarchs shot 37 percent for the game.

Saturday
Eldorado 68, Clovis 66
Eldorado (15-6, 6-1) —
Tyrone Crawford 11 3-3 27, Bryce Burkholder 2 3-5 7, Joe Kearns 1 1-2 3, Andrew Kadlec 4 0-0 8, Matt Witkowski 1 0-0 3, Derek McDonald 2 2-4 6, Matt Melia 0 2-2 2, Larry Davis 0 1-2 1, Daniel Farris 2 7-8 11. Totals 23-46 19-26 68.
Clovis (19-6, 4-3) — Bud Willis 5-8 3-4 16, Tizrick Phillips 1-2 0-0 2, Zac Watters 0-1 0-2 0, Jacob Jones 0-0 0-0 0, Elliott Hita 0-1 0-1 0, John Props 5-8 0-0 11, Justin Pinckney 3-13 4-7 10, Dominique Easterlin 3-10 9-9 16, Mario Caswell 2-4 7-11 11. Totals 19-47 23-34 66.
Eldorado 18 13 21 16 — 68
Clovis 7 22 12 25 — 66
3-pointers — Eldorado 3-8 (Crawford 2, Witkowski), Clovis 5-15 (Willis 3-5, Easterlin 1-2, Props 1-2, Phillips 0-1, Watters 0-1, Pinckney 0-4). Rebounds — Eldorado 30, Clovis 25 (Easterlin 7). Assists — Eldorado n/a, Clovis 11 (Willis 4). Total fouls — Eldorado 24, Clovis 21. Fouled out — Easterlin. JV score — Eldorado 48, Clovis 47. Sophomore score — Clovis 59, Eldorado 53, OT.

Friday
Clovis 75, Manzano 55
Manzano (10-11, 1-6) —
Frank Tafoya 1 0-0 3, Cesar Cuevas 1 2-2 5, Brandon Smith 0 1-2 1, Andrew Dunnell 0 0-0 0, Jacob Case 1 0-0 2, Jordan Parks 0 0-1 0, Cash Davis 2 0-0 4, Paul Gabaldon 4 6-7 16, Rodney Ferguson 7 2-2 16, James Syme 0 0-0 0, Chanselor Bell 3 2-4 8. Totals 19-51 13-18 55.
Clovis (19-5, 4-2) — Bud Willis 4 5-5 13, Tizrick Phillips 0 1-2 1, Zac Watters 0 1-2 1, Jacob Jones 0 0-0 0, Elliott Hita 2 1-1 5, John Props 2 1-2 5, Justin Pinckney 4 6-8 14, Devin Sweet 0 0-0 0, Dominique Easterlin 11 2-2 24, Mario Caswell 5 2-2 12, Jeff Epps 0 0-0 0. Totals 28-52 19-24 75.
Manzano 6 11 16 22 — 55
Clovis 16 25 17 17 — 75
3-pointers — Manzano 4-14 (Gabaldon 2, Cuevas, Tafoya). Clovis 0-6 (Pinckney 0-1, Watters 0-1, Easterlin 0-2, Props 0-2). Rebounds — Manzano 23, Clovis 32 (Caswell, Easterlin 8). Assists — Manzano n/a, Clovis 12 (Willis 4). Total fouls — Manzano 23, Clovis 17. Fouled out — Gabaldon, Bell. JV score — Clovis 43, Manzano 38. Sophomore score — Manzano 50, Clovis 38.