Clovis High's boys were challenged by Albuquerque High on Friday night, but the Wildcats moved into position for a possible third consecutive Southwest Dairy Farmers Classic championship.
Senior guard D.J. Blackmon scored 20 points and the Cats held on late for a 62-54 win over previously unbeaten Albuquerque High, setting up a 7:30 p.m. finals clash today against Sugar Land, Texas-based Trent Internationale at Rock Staubus Gym.
Clovis (7-2) built a 10-point lead in the second quarter, then fell behind twice by a point late in the third stanza before pulling away late.
"That's a really good team," CHS boys coach Matt King said of Albuquerque High (6-1). "I think both teams will hopefully be a little bit better in March, but it was a good game for Dec. 28."
Senior guards Drew Cole and John Dawson added 11 and 10 points, respectively, for Clovis. Dawson picked up his fourth foul late in the third period, but the Cats were able to work around it.
"He's been struggling a little with fouls, but he usually keeps his cool," Blackmon said of Dawson. "When he's out like that, we just have to take control of his spot."
Blackmon scored 14 of his points in the first half, including 10 in the second quarter.
"He played well for us, but we expect him to," King said. "He did that tonight, and we're proud of him."
Blackmon said the team expected a challenge from the Bulldogs.
"They're a good team; they beat Eldorado a couple of weeks ago," he said. "We knew it would be a dogfight, but in the end I think we showed we're the better team."
Clovis led just 48-46 after three quarters, but a 3-point basket by junior guard Willie McCray helped give the Cats some breathing room. McCray scored five of his nine points in the period.
"We knew that was going to happen, but we have to respond," King said of the Bulldogs' comeback. "I thought Willie McCray made some big shots there."
Albuquerque High got 16 points from 6-foot-8 senior Jame Croadell and 13 each from senior guards Jeremy Hall and Mahlik Sims. Both teams shot well at the foul line — Clovis going 16-for-21, the Bulldogs 13-for-15.
Trent Internationale (9-3), featuring two players at 6-foot-9, turned back El Paso Cathedral 59-49 in the other semifinal game.