Cats beat St. Mike’s with furious fourth-quarter rally

By Kevin Wilson

CNJ STAFF WRITER

kwilson@cnjonline.com

The St. Michael’s defense made point-blank shots difficult all night for the Clovis Wildcats. But they couldn’t do anything but watch D.D. Egbert sink two open 15-footers with 1.6 seconds left.

CNJ staff photo: Kevin Wilson Clovis senior Marquese Gaither drives down the lane against St. Michael’s defender Bradley Vaughan in the second half Thursday night at Rock Staubus Gymnasium. Gaither scored five of his eight points in the fourth quarter of the Wildcats’ 56-54 comeback win. The Wildcats trailed 47-30 with seven minutes to play.

CNJ staff photo: Kevin Wilson
Clovis senior Marquese Gaither drives down the lane against St. Michael’s defender Bradley Vaughan in the second half Thursday night at Rock Staubus Gymnasium. Gaither scored five of his eight points in the fourth quarter of the Wildcats’ 56-54 comeback win. The Wildcats trailed 47-30 with seven minutes to play.

“I just thought, ‘I’ve got to step up and make these,” Egbert said of his free throws, which came 50 seconds after he’d tied things up on a driving layup. “Clutch, that’s what I was thinking.”

Good, and good, and Egbert finished off what Willie McCray started as Clovis pulled off an improbable 56-54 comeback victory over the Horsemen to kick off the Southwest Dairy Farmers Classic Thursday night at Rock Staubus Gymnasium.

McCray had 17 of his game-high 30 points in the fourth quarter, including Clovis’ first 15 points of an 18-1 run to start the final quarter of a game the young Horsemen had up to that point dominated.

Down 47-30 with seven minutes to play, McCray got started with a layup-and-one, then hit 3-pointers on four of Clovis’ next five possessions to turn things around.

“That first three, I think that changed everything for me,” McCray said. “I just wanted the ball to be in my hand, leading my team to victory.”

Three quarters down, that seemed laughable, with Clovis shooting 7-of-40 and in a hole after going nearly nine minutes without a basket in the first half against a 2-3 matchup zone from the Horsemen (5-2).

“We’re very, very fortunate to win tonight,” Clovis coach Matt King said. “Very fortunate. We were able to make some tough shots, kids were gritty and we were able to win.

“We made some shots, and that was not the case the first three quarters. St. Mike’s had something to do with that. Their zone is tough.”

CNJ staff photo: Kevin Wilson Clovis senior Kamal Cass looks for driving room against St. Michael’s defender Isaiah Dominguez in the second half Thursday night at Rock Staubus Gymnasium. Cass scored four points and pulled down five rebounds in the Wildcats’ 56-54 win.

CNJ staff photo: Kevin Wilson
Clovis senior Kamal Cass looks for driving room against St. Michael’s defender Isaiah Dominguez in the second half Thursday night at Rock Staubus Gymnasium. Cass scored four points and pulled down five rebounds in the Wildcats’ 56-54 win.

The Wildcats finally found the outside shooting they needed to break the zone, but McCray got help from Egbert and Marquese Gaither. Gaither scored eight points, including a 3-pointer to knot it up at 48-48 with 2:49 left and a pair of free throws

to tie it up again at 52 before Egbert finished things off.

Throughout the night, it looked like the story would be the Horsemen, with an aggressive zone defense and an extremely patient offense that only attempted 25 shots — Clovis, by comparison, missed 38 of its 52 attempts. But veteran coach Ron Geyer said turnovers at bad times and a 20-of-37 night at the free throw line eliminated several chances to put the upset on ice.

“It was free throw shooting,” Geyer said. “I’m very proud of my kids. We had great effort. We’re kind of a young team, but that’s a game we should have won.”

The Horsemen, who play Hereford at 1:30 p.m. today, still gave Clovis a lot to think about — especially post Isaiah Dominguez, who simply overmatched Wildcats defenders with a 26-point night on 11-of-12 shooting.

“They pounded the ball inside way too effectively,” King said. “For the most part, they took care of the basketball.”

Clovis plays in tonight’s finale, scheduled for 7:30 p.m. against Abilene.