By John Eisel: CNJ sports writer
The Clovis Wildcats will have to go on the road for the district tournament — for how long is the question.
Barring a major upset, Clovis will finish third in District 4-5A with a win today at Sandia. The Wildcats (20-5) would need cellar-dweller Carlsbad to knock off Hobbs to finish second.
Clovis, Sandia (14-9) and Hobbs (16-9) are tied for second at 4-3 in district play with one game remaining in the regular season.
Cibola has already clinched the regular-season title and will host district tournament title game.
Hobbs owns the tie-breaker over Clovis based on a better record against Cibola.
A loss Friday would dropped Clovis to fourth, which would mean the Wildcats would have to win two road games to qualify for the state playoffs and three to win the district tournament title.
Clovis Wildcat coach J.D. Isler feels his team is up to the challenge.
“If we have to go on the road and win, we will,” Isler said. “If we have to play at home and win, we will.”
The Wildcats might be short-handed for today’s game in Albuquerque.
Senior post Dominique Easterlin didn’t practice Wednesday after rolling his ankle in practice Monday. He missed Tuesday’s win against Carlsbad. Isler said Easterlin’s at 60 percent going into Thursday’s practice.
“It’s a matter if we feel he can physically help us,” Isler said.
Junior forward Devin Sweet may also be out. He suffered a concussion on an errant elbow in Tuesday’s game, and Isler said he was still suffering headaches Wednesday.
The Matadors are lead by the brother duo of Nate and David Kanyinda.
David Kanyinda is a 5-foot-8 point guard his 6-foot-4 older brother is Sandia’s leading scorer.
“Pretty much everything runs through him,” Isler said of David Kanyinda.
Isler said the Matadors would likely spread out on offense, much like Carlsbad tried to do on Tuesday.
In contrast, the unbeaten Lady Wildcats control their own destiny.
The Lady Cats (25-0, 7-0) can win their second-straight 4-5A regular-season title by beating Sandia at home today.
Sandia (19-4, 6-1) can force a playoff for the district’s top seed by beating the Lady Wildcats.
“We sure don’t plan on that happening,” Lady Wildcats coach Miles Watters said.
Clovis beat Sandia 59-52 in the district opener for both teams.
“It’s nice that it all kind of boils down to something and there’s a prize in it for either team,” Sandia coach Susan Kubala said.
Kubala said Clovis’ balanced inside and outside game makes them tough to defend.
“You have to make them do things they’re not comfortable doing,” she said.
Sandia is led by forward Kendra Coveal, guard Angela Dennison and point Martina Holloway, who Watters called, “The quarterback of their team.”
Clovis (20-5, 4-3) at Sandia (14-9, 4-3)
7 p.m. today
Last game: Clovis beat Carlsbad 77-57. Sandia lost at Cibola 67-55.
Last meeting: Clovis beat Sandia 61-45 in mid January.
Sandia Players to watch: David Kanyinda, PG, 5-11, Jr.; Nate Kanyinda, F, 6-4, Sr.
Notable: Clovis is ranked No. 3 in the latest Albuquerque Journal Class 5A Coaches Poll. Sandia is sixth.
By the numbers: This will be Sandia’s fourth home game. Sandia’s floor was ruined by flooding, so they had to barnstorm through the non-district season.
7 p.m. today
Cibola (19-4, 6-1) at Clovis (25-0, 7-0)
Last game: Clovis won at Carlsbad 62-26. Sandia beat Cibola 54-37.
Last meeting: Clovis won at Sandia 59-52 in mid January.
Sandia players to watch: Kendra Coveal, F, 5-10, So.; Martina Holloway, PG, 5-4, Jr.; Angela Dennison, G, 5-9, Jr.
Notable:The Lady Cats are ranked No. 1 in the latest Albuquerque Journal Class 5A Coaches Poll. Sandia is fourth.
Quotable: “We’re used to getting on the bus and playing somewhere. This group of kids have adapted.” — Sandia coach Susan Kubala, whose team had to play on the road for all but four games this year.
By the numbers:Five seniors will be recognized tonight. This is the final regular season home game for seniors Stacey Corley, Melissa Roberts, Roxanne Luera, Raquel McCullom and Merichia Floyd.