By Rick White
Clovis and Hobbs have been state boys basketball playoff staples for decades, although there have been occasional hiccups.
Like in 1999, when the Wildcats failed to make the playoffs in former coach Terry Ferguson’s first season. Hobbs hasn’t been left at home come March since 1992, when legendary coach Ralph Tasker still worked the sidelines.
Tonight is going to be another of those rare occasions when the long-time rivals meet in the semifinals of the District 4-5A tournament at Ralph Tasker Arena.
The winner advances to Saturday’s title at regular-season champion Eldorado and earns a berth in next week’s regionals. The loser is done for the season.
The teams split during the regular season, including Clovis’ 96-95 win last week that cost Hobbs a share of the regular-season title.
Clovis coach J.D. Isler said it will take a similar effort tonight.
“We really played with an attack mentality,” Isler said. “All of the players really attacked the basket and we rebounded well.
“If we play like that again and get a few breaks, who knows, maybe we can do it again.”
Hobbs coach Russ Gilmore said having a week off to stew over the last-second loss has been tough.
“It’s been a long week,” Gilmore said. “You kind of want to get back on the court quickly after a loss like that.
“But we had a good week of practice.”
Both coaches said they would make a few adjustments for the teams’ third meeting of the season, but mostly would rely on what they’ve been doing all season.
For Clovis, that means relying on the scoring punch of Justin Pinckney and Dominique Easterlin and the floor leadership of Bud Willis, who scored a career-high 27 points in the last meeting.
Hobbs counters with its full-court pressure and the scoring of senior guard Ervin Youmans, who has averaged 36 points against the Wildcats.
The Wildcats also have to deal with a packed Ralph Tasker Arena that hates the color purple as much as a bull does red.
“(Hobbs) definitely feeds off the crowd,” Isler said. “We never really took the crowd out of it (last time), but we didn’t let them affect us mentally.
“We need to do the same thing. We didn’t panic and we kept attacking.”
Otherwise, Isler said, the Wildcats’ season will be over.
Clovis (21-6) at Hobbs (21-5), 8 p.m.
Clovis-Hobbs winner at Eldorado (16-6), 7:30 p.m.