By Dave Wagner: CNJ sports writer
The Clovis High boys believe they’re ready for tonight’s rematch against rival Hobbs in the finals of the District 4-5A tournament at Rock Staubus Gym.
Hobbs edged the Wildcats 96-94 in overtime at home last week in the regular-season finale for both teams, but Clovis (16-8) had already clinched the district’s regular-season championship.
The teams tip off at 8 p.m., following a girls district final between the schools at 5 p.m.
“I felt like we outplayed them at their place,” Clovis coach J.D. Isler said. “We just made some mistakes late in the game. Even though we lost, I feel pretty confident that we played well enough to win.”
Hobbs (16-11) earned the right to be in tonight’s final by outlasting Carlsbad 80-74 at home on Thursday night. The Eagles, who lost during district play at Carlsbad, had to work for the win — they were down a point twice in the final three minutes, and scored the game’s last seven points.
The Eagles won the game at the free throw line, sinking 21-of-27 while the Cavemen went 7-for-18.
Even though the Cats are assured a trip to next week’s regional round, and quite possibly a home game even if they lose, they want the best seed possible when the 16-team bracket is announced.
“We’re going in there to win it,” said sophomore guard Jaden Isler, the coach’s son. “All we’re wanting to do is to get to state. If we do that, I think we can win it.”
Clovis won the first meeting between the schools 92-84 at The Rock on Feb. 3 and Jaden Isler said the two games were similar.
“We just ended up turning the ball over a little too much (at the end) down there,” he said.
The younger Isler, hampered by a variety of injuries during the season, took an elbow to the forehead in last week’s game but said he’s doing well. He’s also played through a spained ankle and a broken bone in his hand at times this season.
“I feel great,” he said. “I’ve practiced all week and I’m close to 100 percent (healthy).
“Our team is pretty healthy now, and we’re back to normal. We should play our best basketball when we need to.”
Hobbs put five players in double figures in the last game, led by senior guard-forward Austin Turner with 33 points. Turner scored 28 points in the first meeting.
“We’re not going to let Turner take over late in this game,” J.D. Isler said. “We’ve challenged our posts this week to do a better job on him, and I think they’ll respond.
“Our kids are excited about the opportunity. We just have to make sure we stay focused and don’t get too emotional, and hopefully we’ll play well.”