Clovis eyes open road

Clovis High’s Cody Thornsbury drives to the basket against Rio Rancho’s Marcus Williams, left, in the finals of the Milk Cow Classic on Dec. 30 at Rock Staubus Gym. Rio Rancho edged the Wildcats 97-95 in overtime. (CNJ staff photo: Andy DeLisle)

By Greg Price: CNJ sports writer

They don’t score much. They don’t fill the stat sheets often, or take the game-winning shot, but Clovis’ bench mob brings an unselfish, working man’s approach to the game.

The Clovis bench will have to come up big as the Wildcats (15-1) hit the road for the next three games, including back-to-back games at No. 1 Rio Rancho today and at No. 9-ranked Sandia Saturday.

“Any championship team has a good bench,” Clovis coach J.D. Isler said. “We tell the kids we’re not just five players, but an entire team.”

Clovis’ lone loss this season was a last-second, 97-95 overtime decision against Rio Rancho in the finals of the Milk Cow Classic at Rock Staubus Gym in late December. The Wildcats’ main problem in that game was foul trouble — four players, including three starters, fouled out.

Junior Aaron Boydstun came off the pine and nailed two clutch free throws late in overtime to keep the Cats in the game untll the final seconds.

“It takes a special person to not be in the flow of the game and come in and play well,” Isler said. “Unselfishness, above all, is the main characteristic Mendoza, Boydstun and the rest of the bench have, but they still know how pivotal their roles are.”

Boydstun and junior Jordan Mendoza sub in for frontcourt starters Michael Lewis and Layne Strebeck, rebounding with a bull-like intensity. Junior Manuel Robles is the leading scorer off the bench and also provides intense perimeter defense.

“I go in there and my main job is to box out and rebound for us,” Mendoza said. “(I want to) just give Mike and Layne a breather for a bit.”

Junior guard Bryce Hill said the bench is important in the Cats’ transition offense.

“They have to come in and give defense and keep the tempo going,” Hill said. “If one of us is in foul trouble, we don’t have to worry about it.”