Clovis senior Tigg Bunton scored 33 points in Tuesday’s 85-72 loss at Hobbs. (Hobbs-News Sun: Hobbs-News Sun photo: Daniel Howell)
Special to the CNJ
HOBBS — Russ Gilmore and his Hobbs Eagles coaching staff has felt for the better part of the season that the best way to get the Clovis Wildcats out of their game was to get in their heads.
Gilmore’s prediction proved true on Tuesday, as Clovis’ Tizrick Phillips received a technical in the third quarter and Dominique Easterlin fouled out with his technical in the fourth. Both fouls turned into big scoring swings for the Eagles in their 85-72 win over the Wildcats at Tasker Arena.
“(The technical fouls definitely helped give us a boost,” said Gilmore following the win. “I really felt pretty good about the way we played the entire game, but it’s always nice to get that little bit of help along the way.”
That “little bit of help” was all Austin Turner, Samson Munoz and the hot-shooting Eagles needed as they rallied around a pregame pep-talk from Texas Tech star and former Eagle Ronald Ross.
Turner had a team-high 24 points and Munoz added 23 on 8 of 9 shooting from the field as Hobbs avenged its loss to the Wildcats two weeks ago.
Munoz scored 16 of his 23 points after halftime, and hit two key 3-pointers in the fourth to stretch the Eagles’ lead to seven points prior to the Easterlin blow up that sent the Clovis senior to the bench for the night.
Wildcats coach J.D. Isler didn’t agree with the technical foul call on Easterlin, but said it definitely hurt his team’s chances to win when one of its leaders left early.
“That was a poor call by the official … but more than the technical, that fifth foul on (Easterlin) really hurt us,” he said. “We played hard enough to win tonight, but we didn’t play as well as we needed to in order to win when (Hobbs) was shooting as well as they were.”
Turner was also efficient shooting the ball in the game for Hobbs (16-8, 4-2 District 4-5A), connecting on seven of his 11 shots from the field and going 4 of 6 from beyond the arc.
“You have to try to get the ball to whoever has the hot hand,” said Hobbs’ B.J. Meridyth, who added 16 points to the Hobbs cause. “Sam and Austin hit back-to-back threes in the third, so I really started trying to find them whenever I could. I think we all did a good job of finding the open man tonight.”
Clovis (19-5, 3-3) was led in scoring by Tigg Bunton’s 33 points and also got 10 from Jacob Jones in the loss.
With the win, the Eagles stay alive for the top seed in the District 4-5A tournament, needing to win road games at Sandia and Carlsbad to clinch at least a share of the regular-season title.
Gilmore said his players should hold onto the feelings they had about Tuesday’s win, and carry over their effort to their trip to Albuquerque on Friday.
“This game was very, very necessary for us to take care of with a win,” he said. “This district is so tough and so even, that we pretty much had to win in order to stay alive for that No. 1 seed.
“Now we have to get focused, come together and find a way to win on the road in our next two games.