By Dave Wagner: CNJ sports writer
It’s been a one-sided matchup for a decade or so, but Clovis High coach J.D. Isler said the Wildcats can’t afford a letdown tonight when they host Portales at Rock Staubus Gym.
“We’re going to have to come out with some intensity,” Isler said following Clovis’ 72-46 win over Roswell Goddard at home on Saturday. “Portales always wants to beat us, and I think our players understand that.”
Tipoff is set for 7:30 p.m.
Portales coach Mark Gallegos hasn’t been on the winning end of this game in his previous seven years at the helm, adding that it was probably the early 1990s when the Rams last beat Clovis.
Gallegos, whose team extended its winning streak to three with a 58-55 victory over Artesia on Saturday in the Portales Shootout, said that while the Cats (9-4) may not be as talented as some of their recent teams, they seem to have good chemistry.
“The thing about Clovis is they’re playing so well together, and that goes a long way,” he said. “They’re still big and physical with (seniors Chris) Finch and Devin Sweet, and the (Cody) Thornsbury kid is really consistent shooting the basketball.”
The Rams (7-6), defending Class 3A state runnersup, generally prepare for district and postseason competition by playing up against 4A and 5A schools. Gallegos, who had to replace several starters from a year ago, said his squad has come along pretty well.
“I think we’re pretty close to where we need to be,” he said. “If we keep improving, I think we’ve got a good shot to win our district.”
Against Artesia, senior guard Daniel Aranda scored 24 points while senior guard Jerrod Long, a transfer from Floyd, added 19.
“He’s played really well,” Gallegos said of Long. “With him, we’ve been trying to push the ball a little more.”
Isler anticipates the Rams will try to go toe-to-toe with his team.
“They start four seniors, so they know how to play together,” he said. “They’ll change defenses on us a lot. I know they’ll be fired up.
“They’re not real big. They’ll want to run with us, I think, but that’s what we do best.”
Isler said the Cats have made strides while getting a bit of a late start after the football playoffs and working through some injuries.
“As young as we are and with the injuries we’ve had, we’ve got to feel good to be 9-4,” he said. “I feel like we’ve gotten better as the season has gone on.”