Clovis’ Rishard Mathews drives to the basket around Portales’ Jerrod Long during the first half of their game Tuesday at Rock Staubus Gymnasium. Clovis defeated Portales 48-45. (CNJ staff photo: Eric Kluth)
By Dave Wagner: CNJ sports writer
CLOVIS — The Clovis Wildcats had just enough to hold off Portales on Tuesday night.
After missing their first 10 free throws through the start of the final quarter, the Cats were 6-for-8 in the final 1:35 to hold off Portales 48-45 at Rock Staubus Gym.
The Class 3A Rams (7-7) made a game of it late, cutting a nine-point deficit with less than 4 1/2 minutes left to one point on two free throws by senior guard Chris Adkins with 7.8 seconds left.
Clovis sophomore Bryce Hill, though, hit two foul shots with 4.8 seconds to go and the Rams were unable to get a potential tying 3-pointer off before time expired.
Senior guard Cody Thornsbury converted 6-of-7 shots — including 4-of-5 from 3-point range — for 17 points for the Class 5A Cats (10-4), while senior post Devin Sweet added 13 points and a game-high nine rebounds.
Clovis shot 60 percent on 18-of-30, but committed 22 turnovers and finished just 8-for-22 from the line overall.
“We just played sloppy and had a lot of turnovers,” Thornsbury said. “We knew they’d try to pressure us, but I didn’t expect us to handle it like we did.”
Adkins went 4-of-6 from beyond the arc and finished with 15 points for the Rams, while senior guard Daniel Aranda had 14 points.
“I liked the intensity and effort our kids played with,” Rams coach Mark Gallegos said. “If we’ll play with that kind of effort and intensity the rest of the year, I think we’ll be a pretty good team at the end.”
Aranda scored eight points in the first period as Portales pared a seven-point deficit to 11-10 by quarter’s end. The Rams opened a five-point lead late in the half after Adkins nailed a 3-pointer and two free throws, but Clovis closed to 22-21 at the break despite going 0-for-9 from the line.
“We had the ball and a five-point lead and I wanted to play for the last shot, but we took two bad shots,” Gallegos said.
Clovis coach J.D. Isler wasn’t happy with his team’s effort.
“I don’t think we’re playing with the kind of heart we were in our tournament a couple of weeks ago,” Isler said. “No matter who you’re playing, if you don’t play with heart you’re going to be an average team.
“I felt like (Portales was) going to come out and battle us. I felt like if we jumped on them early we could get (the game) going our way, but if we let them hang around we were going to be in for a battle.”
Thornsbury had a 3-pointer and a breakaway layup to help the Cats build a 30-23 lead midway through the third period. Portales closed to 34-30 at quarter’s end, but Clovis responded with a 6-1 run to start the final period capped by sophomore guard Jaden Isler’s lane drive.
Adkins hit consecutive 3-pointers to quickly get Portales back in the hunt.
“I’m not into moral victories,” Gallegos said. “It’s a game we should’ve won, but if we’ll just keep improving I can take the loss.”