ALBUQUERQUE — Pay no particular attention to Las Cruces High’s 71-58 win over Clovis High’s boys at The Rock in January, CHS coach Matt King says.
“We’re not the same team we were then, and they’re not (either),” he said on Friday on the eve of tonight’s 8 p.m. Class 5A title matchup at The Pit. “It’s important to look at that game and learn from it, but we’re two different teams.”
The fourth-seeded Wildcats (23-6) certainly have momentum coming into their first state final since a 73-71 loss to District 4-5A rival Hobbs in 2008. They’ve won 12 in a row, including quarterfinal and semifinal wins over Manzano and top-ranked Eldorado, respectively, in overtime.
Not that the Cats don’t have room for improvement. Their three star seniors — John Dawson, D.J. Blackmon and Drew Cole — all fouled out in the fourth quarter and they needed their subs to bail them out against Manzano, while they missed a whopping 16 free throws against Eldorado, including 11 in the fourth quarter and OT.
“We haven’t shot it all that well in either game,” King said. “Hopefully, (tonight) will be better.”
The Bulldawgs (23-7), the sixth seed, have had to come from behind in both games here, including a 74-68 win over Hobbs on Thursday in which they trailed 29-13 in the second quarter and 46-32 in the third.
Seniors Joseph Garza, Trevor Noel and Kai Williams are the team’s leaders, King said.
“They’ve been a big part of their program for the last three years.” he noted.
King said he expects his team to play better than in the earlier meeting, but knows the Bulldawgs will cause some problems.
“They’re a really good team,” he said. “They have good guards and good size and they pound the ball in the paint really well, so we’ve really got some challenges.”
Whoever wins will end a long championship drought — Clovis hasn’t captured a state crown since 1979, while the Bulldawgs haven’t done it since 1976.
No. 4 Clovis (23-6) vs. No. 6 Las Cruces (23-7)
What: Class 5A state championship game
When: 8 p.m. Saturday
Where: The Pit in Albuquerque
State titles: Clovis (3) 1951, 1953, 1979. Las Cruces (5) 1959, 1960, 1961, 1975, 1976