Cats beat Levelland, improve to 6-0

Clovis senior Justin Pinckney shots over Levelland’s O’Marre Joyce. CNJ photo Erick Kluth.

By Dave Wagner

Levelland, Texas, coach Gary Bridges had no illusions about his team’s game against Clovis High Tuesday night at Rock Staubus Gym.

“We knew we were in for a treat because of the Wildcats’ track record lately,” he said after the Lobos’ 68-48 loss to CHS. “We’re very young, with only a couple of guys back off last year’s varsity.

“We’ve done lots of growing lately, but we knew we weren’t expected to win here tonight.”

Senior forward Justin Pinckney scored 24 points, hitting 11-of-22 field goal attempts, while junior forward Dominique Easterlin added 17 points, including 10 in the first quarter. Easterlin also grabbed a team-high eight rebounds.

The Cats (6-0) wasted little time jumping on their guests, forcing turnovers on the Lobos’ first three possessions and converting all into baskets for a lead that remained mostly comfortable throughout.

“I thought we were really sharp early,” CHS coach J.D. Isler said. “We had a little lull in the second quarter and a little lull in the third quarter, but overall I thought it was a good win.”

The Lobos (5-6) didn’t go away quietly. Trailing by 18 points three minutes into the second quarter, they got as close as eight several times in the second half, the last with under six minutes left.

Clovis outscored Levelland 14-2 the rest of the way.

“After the initial run, we began to hold our own,” Bridges said, comparing the Cats to Amarillo Palo Duro, a team Levelland lost to 100-49 in its opener. “Clovis is a good team, but that’s how we’re going to get better.”

The Cats were nearly flawless in the first 1 1/2 quarters, committing only one turnover in rolling to a 31-13 lead.

“We came out great,” said senior point guard Bud Willis, who grabbed six rebounds and dished out a team-best six assists. “Then we started making things harder than they were.

“Our defense wasn’t too good tonight. We need to play like every day is the state championship game, but our defense tonight was horrible, I think.”

The Lobos outscored CHS 8-2 over the first 2 1/2 minutes of the third quarter to get within eight, but couldn’t get any closer.

“Every day we need to get better,” Willis said. “We want to keep getting better until we have a state championship.”

The Cats are in a busy stretch, playing seven games in a 10-day period. They’re coming off a championship in the Gene Messer Tournament of Champions over the weekend in Canyon, Texas, beating highly regarded Amarillo High in the finals, and travel to Santa Fe on Thursday for the Capital City Invitational.

They face defending Class 3A state champion St. Michael’s in a 6:30 p.m. first-round game.

“I’m pleased with where our team’s at,” Isler said. “I know we’re going to continue to get better. All the kids are contributing, and we’re going to have to keep doing that.”