By Greg Price: CNJ sports writer
The Clovis Wildcats turned to a famous alumni in hopes of ending five years of postseason frustration.
Philadelphia Eagles rookie wide receiver and Clovis High graduate Hank Baskett spoke to the team Friday afternoon as the Cats prepared to host Mayfield today in a first-round game of the Class 5A state tournament.
His message was simple, senior guard Cody Thornsbury said. Play relaxed.
Thornsbury said Baskett’s talk helped during a week in which the Wildcats were realizing their season would end with a loss.
Baskett helped Clovis reach the state basketball finals in 2001 — the Cats lost to Hobbs, which was the last time they advanced past the first round of state.
At least the fifth-seeded Wildcats (22-5) have the advantage of playing at home this season — they lost first-round road games in 2002, 2003 and last season.
“It makes a huge difference getting to play at home for the playoff game,” Clovis coach J.D. Isler said. “It’s a big benefit getting to play at home in front of the crowd.”
The No. 12-seeded Trojans (12-13) finished tied for second with Alamogordo in District 3-5A.
Thornsbury said the Cats are prepared for the Trojans’ man-to-man defense, and hope to control their offense with some zone.
“They didn’t shoot real well from what we saw,” Thornsbury said. “They’ll press every once in a while to mess with the tempo, but we really want to control the tempo.”
Isler said the Wildcats just need to play the way they’ve played all season to make to next week’s eight-team tournament in Albuquerque.
“We want our kids to really get the tempo of the game going up-and-down,” Isler said. “We really haven’t done anything different because I think our team understands what makes us successful.”
If they win, the Cats will likely draw No. 4 La Cueva, a team that finished 18-6.
“If we can get past this game and get to Albuquerque, we may match up with La Cueva,” Isler said. “I think the kids will feel like they have something to prove in that game.”
Thornsbury offered a different perspective.
“I think we’ve just got to play,” Thornsbury said. “It doesn’t matter how (the seeding) happens, we just have to play our game.”