Clovis High’s Michael Lewis, center, jumps for a layup against Taos defenders Paul Serrano, left, Michael Malone, center, and Donnie Ward, right at Rock Staubus Gym on Saturday night. (CNJ staff photo: Andy DeLisle)
By Greg Price: CNJ sports writer
Asked what he sees as his role on the team, Clovis High senior post Michael Lewis hesitated at first. When pressed, he said he was the Wildcats’ “garbage” man.
Lewis cleaned up Clovis’ mess en route to 25 points on Saturday as the Cats beat Taos 64-53 in the Purple Pepper Shootout at Rock Staubus Gym.
The teams were playing for a second consecutive night. Because of weather conditions, Friday’s Roswell High-Amarillo High game was cancelled, while neither Roswell nor Canyon were able to make the trip on Saturday.
Clovis, which beat Taos 68-33 on Friday, was originally scheduled to play Canyon on Saturday while Taos was to have faced Roswell High.
The Cats (15-1) had a tougher time with Taos after blowing out the Tigers with a 41-8 third-quarter run on Friday.
Junior Santiago Armijo scored 14 points and senior Juan Valdez added 12 as the Tigers battled back from a nine point second quarter deficit for the lead, only to see Clovis roar back for the victory.
“After the half we got our motors running,” Lewis said. “The shooting’s not going to be good every night. And when that happens, we’ll just get the ball inside and score.”
Clovis led 32-25 at halftime, but Taos whittled away in the third quarter, going on a 9-0 run capped by two free throws from senior Paul Serrano for a 41-38 advantage with 2:12 remaining in the period.
“The longer you let a team hang around the more confidence they get that they can play with you,” Clovis coach J. D. Isler said. “They took that lead in the third quarter, so now they start believing they can beat you, and it just makes your fight that much tougher.”
Hill broke the Cats slump with five straight points, including a 3-pointer, and Lewis sucked down a rebound and nailed a layup at the third quarter buzzer for a 45-43 lead.
From there Taos came within one after senior Daniel Garcia sunk a 3-pointer and Valdez hit two free throws cutting the deficit to 49-48 early in the fourth.
“I think we did a better job in the second half defending,” Taos coach Richard Apodaca said. “Tonight we did a better job on the shooters, getting a hand in their face, and not allowing them to get in a rhythm.”
The Cats struck back with a 15-5 run to close out the game, with six of those points coming from junior Layne Strebeck on a three-point play, and a 3-pointer with under two minutes remaining.
“I just think we didn’t do a great job of preparing mentally today,” J. D. Isler said, as the Cats were unsure if they were even going to take the court at all Saturday. “Our routine was a little messed up. We learned that you have to be prepared to play everybody no matter who it is.”