Stretch run lifts Clovis over Caprock

Clovis senior forward Dominique Easterlin drives to the hoop in the third quarter of the Cats’ 52-43 win over Caprock on Friday at home.

By John Eisel: CNJ sports writer

A strong start and a strong finish carried Clovis to its second straight win.

The Wildcats outscored Amarillo Caprock 12-3 over the last four minutes of the fourth quarter for a 52-43 win Friday at Rock Staubus Gym.

Clovis (2-0) made its free throws down the stretch and finished 20 for 26 from the line. Caprock (5-3) was 0 of 5.

“They hit free throws and we didn’t hit free throws and that ended up being a big difference in the ballgame,” Caprock coach Roger Raper said.

Senior center Tigg Bunton scored 18 points for the Wildcats, and senior forward Dominique Easterlin added 16. The two combined to go 15 of 19 from the free-throw line, with most of those free throws coming in the last few minutes of the game when Clovis pulled away.

“Our seniors stepped up and led us today,” Clovis coach J.D. Isler said. Isler said Easterlin performed much better for Clovis than in the first game. Prior to the game, Isler said that would be key to a Wildcats win.

Over the last two minutes of the third quarter Caprock hit two 3-pointers in a 10-3 run, cutting Clovis’ lead to 34-33 going into the fourth quarter. The Longhorns hit five 3s in the game.

“We took a couple of plays off, but we picked (our intensity) up,” Easterlin said.

Raper picked up a technical foul arguing a traveling call and referees stopped the game momentarily to cool off the players after a spat between Bunton and Caprock post Damaso Hernandez.

The Longhorns took their first lead of the game at 35-34 with 6:56 left in the game and then the teams flip-flopped the lead in the fourth quarter.

The Cats switched from man-to-man to zone down the stretch over the final few minutes of the game.

“That zone really bothered them,” Isler said. The mid-range jumpers and 3s the Longhorns made in their comeback in the late third and early fourth quarter refused to fall.

The first quarter was filled with plenty of erratic passes and missed shots by both teams, but the Cats capitalized enough on the Longhorns’ mistakes to open a 9-0 lead through the first five minutes of the game.

“We came out a little scared, a little nervous, and they jumped on us pretty quick,” Raper said.

Isler and Easterlin said the Cats tried to cut off the passes down to the post while maintaining a lot of pressure.

The Wildcats’ lead ballooned to 24-9 with 5:30 left in the first half, but the Cats couldn’t put Caprock away, holding a 26-17 lead at halftime.

Michael Becetta led Caprock with 20 points, including a pair of 3-pointers.

The Wildcats complete the home-and-home series with the Class 4A Longhorns when they play at Caprock on Dec. 17.