Clovis’ Jaden Isler falls to the ground as he tries to control a loose ball during the second half of Thursday’s game against Lubbock Coronado at Rock Staubus Gymnasium. (CNJ staff photo: Eric Kluth)
By Dave Wagner: CNJ sports writer
With time about to run out, Jaden Isler knew he had to just throw one up.
The Clovis High sophomore guard grabbed a weakside rebound on teammate Bryce Hill’s desperation 3-pointer and sank two free throws after he was fouled as the clock expired Thursday night, sending the Clovis High’s boys into the Christmas holiday with a 67-66 victory over Lubbock Coronado at Rock Staubus Gym.
Isler finished with a career-best 28 points, including 12-of-16 from the line, as the Wildcats (5-3) overcame an 11-point deficit in the final 4 1/2 minutes.
“I wasn’t really concerned about the free throws,” Isler said. “Me and (junior guard) Cody Thornsbury stayed after practice yesterday to shoot free throws because we hadn’t been shooting them all that well.”
On the court by himself, he swished both shots after his would-be first attempt was wiped out when officials gave Coronado (10-6) a timeout.
The final score marked Clovis’ only lead of the second half.
“That’s a good team; they play a tough man-to-man defense,” CHS boys coach J.D. Isler said of the Mustangs. “They make you work for everything, and that’s what makes (the win) more special.
“Our kids just never quit playing hard. The crowd finally got into it, and we fed off that a little bit.”
Hill was the Cats’ only other double-figure scorer, finishing with 11 points.
Senior guard Stephen Manning led Coronado with 18 points, including 10-of-12 from the line, while senior forward Keaton Harris added 14 and senior guard Billy Harris had 13.
Jaden Isler said the Cats, who host the Milk Cow Classic tournament on Wednesday, never lost faith they could win.
“I thought we were going to get them at the end of the third quarter,” he said. “But the team was up the whole time. (The win) puts us in a good mood for the tournament.”
Clovis trailed 63-56 after Jaden Isler went 1-for-2 from the line with 3:08 left. But Hill converted a Coronado turnover into a 3-pointer on the next trip, and Isler then hit two free throws to make it 63-61 with 1:55 to go.
The Mustangs made 1-of-2 from the line on three consecutive trips downcourt, opening the door for the Cats. After Clovis sophomore Layne Strebeck tied the game with a weakside putback with 20 seconds left, Coronado’s Billy Harris split two free throws to put his team back in front.
“It was a huge rebound and putback by Layne Strebeck,” coach Isler said. “For such a young team to win one like that, it’s pretty special.”
For most of the game, though, it looked like the Mustangs had the upper hand.
After spotting Clovis the first six points, Coronado came back with an 8-0 run. The Mustangs then scored nine consecutive points to lead 26-20 with three minutes left in the half.
Clovis pulled even on a baseline drive by Isler with 43 seconds left, but senior guard Michael Pierce’s 3-pointer with 21 seconds to go put Coronado in front 34-31 at halftime.
“It’s a tough way to lose,” Coronado coach Randy Dean said. “We made too many mistakes at the end to hold them off.
“We shot the ball well, but we left too many points at the free throw line and it’s hard to win a close game when you do that.”