Cats nail down regular-season district title

Clovis’ Jason Roberts looks to pass the ball as he drives to the basket during the second half of Tuesday’s District 4-5A game against Carlsbad at Rock Staubus Gym. (CNJ staff photo: Eric Kluth)

By Dave Wagner: CNJ sports writer

Junior guard Cody Thornsbury brought back memories of Christian Laettner Tuesday night.

Thornsbury did his version of the former Duke star, going 10-for-10 from the field and scoring 25 points as the Cats used a 33-6 run at the end of the first half to blow out Carlsbad 81-49 at Rock Staubus Gym and nail down the District 4-5A regular-season title — their first district title in nine years.

While Laettner hit 10-for-10 shots and added 9-for-9 from the free throw line for 29 points, including the game-winner at the buzzer in overtime in Duke’s 104-103 win over Kentucky in the 1992 NCAA regional finals, Thornsbury’s performance was pretty impressive in its own right. It included 5-for-5 from 3-point distance.

“Everything felt good,” said Thornsbury, who did all his scoring in the first three quarters and fell one point short of his season high. “We came out fired up and ready to go.

“I knew they’d come in pretty confident after beating Hobbs. After a while, though, we got going and they couldn’t keep up.”

Thornsbury got plenty of help from senior post Michael Lewis and sophomore guard Jaden Isler, who both posted double-doubles — Lewis matching a season high with 16 points on 8-of-10 shooting and adding 10 rebounds, while Isler scored 13 points and dished out 10 of the Cats’ 23 assists.

“Coach (J.D. Isler) said I needed to get more aggressive, so I tried to do that,” said Lewis, who kept the Cats close with eight points in the opening period. “Cody and Bryce (Hill) and Jaden were giving me some really good passes. Once we started getting the ball inside, it opened up the 3s.”

The Cats (16-7, 3-0 district) shot 65 percent from the field and converted 11-of-14 from 3-point range, all by Thornsbury, Isler (3-of-4) and Hill (3-of-5).

Carlsbad (9-17, 1-3), coming off its first win over Hobbs in 12 years on Friday, took the game to Clovis early, building a 14-8 lead. Hill, who finished with 18 points, hit a 3-pointer in the final seconds of the first quarter to cut the margin to one, and the Cats dominated the second period behind 15 points from Thornsbury for a 41-20 halftime lead.

“They’re not a bad team,” J.D. Isler said of the Cavemen. “I thought our kids were a little uptight early, but we started to settle down in the second quarter.”

Clovis continued to dominate in the second half, building its lead to 42 points (79-37) with three minutes left.

“I felt like our defense was very good tonight,” coach Isler said. “It seemed like (senior post) Devin Sweet was getting every defensive rebound in one stretch there.

“I thought we had a really good attacking mentality. We didn’t just come down and move the ball, we attacked.”

Senior guard Alex Bustos scored 13 points for the Cavemen, while sophomore post Jose Lopez came off the bench to get 12.

Although nothing is on the line for Clovis at Hobbs, the players said their rivalry with the Eagles will be enough to get them motivated.

“It’s nothing different (than usual),” Thornsbury said. “We still want to beat them.”

Lewis echoed those sentiments.

“We need to send a message,” he said. “We can go down there and do it.”