Hobbs upends Cats for 4-5A crown

Clovis’ Michael Lewis releases a shot during the second half of their District 4-5A tournament championship game Saturday at Rock Staubus Gymnasium. CNJ Photo:Eric Kluth

By Eric Butler: CNJ correspondent

First-round road games for the state tournament have been the bane for the Clovis Wildcats boys basketball team the last few years.

Even with a new state playoff format, the Wildcats may be teetering on the edge of another out-of-town trip thanks to a 66-59 loss to Hobbs on Saturday night.

Before a near capacity crowd at Rock Staubus Gymnasium, the visiting Eagles earned the District 4-5A championship and a likely first-round home game in next weekend’s round of 16. Clovis (16-9), however, will have to wait for the decision of a seeding committee today to find out where it stands.

Hobbs (17-11) led most of the game and the entire second half.

The Wildcats tied the game at 47-47 early in the fourth period after a basket by Cody Thornsbury. A constant outside shooting threat, Thornsbury was in foul trouble from the opening moments and that bucket was his only one from the floor for the entire evening.

The Eagles quickly established breathing room again by scoring the next nine points of the game. Clovis, however, fought back and closed to within a point when Devin Sweet, who tallied 17 points and 11 rebounds, converted a reverse layup with 2:20 remaining.

Thornsbury nearly pulled off a dramatic save, on Hobbs’ next possession, by going into the first row to grab a ball. But his throw back in was picked off by Turner, whose subsequent missed shot was put back in by teammate Oliver Stinson for a Hobbs 60-57 lead.

With just under two minutes to play, Clovis appeared to have tied the game when Isler canned a 3-point shot. But a three-second violation, in the key, was called on the Wildcats and the field goal was waved off.

Jaden Isler led Clovis with 18 points.

“What was bad is that the ball was loose, there was no possession,” Clovis coach J.D. Isler said. “Obviously, the three-second call was off. We end up picking it up, swinging it to Jaden. He hits a three and they call three seconds, so that was a big call because it swung the momentum.”

Free throws by Heith Carver, Turner and Samson Munoz in the last minute then capped the victory for the Eagles.

Nick Youmans led Hobbs with 19 points and Austin Turner added 15.

Shooting from the charity stripe by Clovis, early in the game, may have been just as big a contribution in the result. Tied 28-28 contest late in the second period, the Wildcats had hit only two of its 12 free throw attempts.

“There’s no reason for us to shoot poor free throws in our gym other than sometimes you want things too bad and you’re trying too hard to make things happen,” Isler said. “I never felt like we played real well offensively and just had to kind of fight all night long.”

Hobbs coach Russ Gilmore thought his team would likely not receive a top eight seed had it lost the Saturday night contest.

“We thought we had to do it, because of our overall record,” Gilmore said. “We played a really tough schedule, but they ain’t gonna look at how tough a schedule you played. That’s why we knew we really had to come up here and win this thing.”

Clovis won the regular-season title.

“I still think we’re a top eight seed,” Coach Isler said. “Hopefully, maybe they’ll see that too and we might get a home game out of it. But, at this point, you’ve just got to get ready to play.”