Cats, Lady Cats hit tourney trail

Clovis junior Dominique Easterlin is the team’s leading rebounder and second-leading scorer. CNJ photo by Eric Kluth..

By Rick White

After cutting its teeth on Texas teams, the unbeaten Clovis Wildcats boys basketball team will get its first taste of New Mexico competition in the Capitol City Classic in Santa Fe.

The eight-team Santa Fe tournament features a pair of defending state champions — Class 5A’s La Cueva and 3A’s St. Michael’s.

Clovis (6-0) faces St. Michael’s at 6:30 p.m. today and could meet La Cueva in Friday’s semifinals.
Wildcats coach J.D. Isler said his team has plenty of motivation.

“We feel like we didn’t do a very good job last year at the tournament,” Isler said. “We got beat in the first round of the tournament by Los Lunas. Even though we won the next two games, we didn’t like being in the consolation bracket.
“The kids are real excited about going up there and redeeming themselves,” Isler said.

La Cueva bounced Clovis from last year’s playoffs on a last-second shot.

The tournament is the second of three this season for the Wildcats, who are coming off a 68-48 win Tuesday over Levelland, Texas, and in the middle of a stretch of playing seven games in 10 days.

Three Wildcats are averaging in double figures, led by senior Justin Pinckney at 23.3 points a game. Junior Dominique Easterlin adds 16 points and 7.8 rebounds and outing and senior point guard Willis chips in 10.3 points and 5.8 assists.

Also unbeaten, the Clovis girls figured to get tested in the Mel Otero Invitational in Rio Rancho.

The Lady Wildcats (6-0) play Los Alamos at 3 p.m. today in the quarterfinals of a tournament that includes Rio Rancho and Los Lunas — both ranked in the top 10 in Class 5A, Roosevelt County rival Portales and J.F. Kimball of Dallas, the defending tournament champs.

“If we don’t step up and play well, we could get a couple of nicks,” Clovis coach Miles Watters said. “We’re going through a tough stretch where we’re going to play five games in seven days.”

“I want to see where we’re at,” Watters said. “We’ve beat some good teams, but there’s some great teams there.”
Clovis is coming off its best defensive effort of the season, holding Levelland scoreless for 11 minutes in the second half of Tuesday’s 57-34 win.

Now, Watters would like to see his team develop some consistency at the other end of the floor.

“We need better production out of everybody,” Watters said. “We need to do a better job of pushing the ball up floor. We have so many kids that can pass the ball and we need to take advantage of that.”

The sophomore trio of post guard Tori Quintana, post Brittany Blackmon and wing Aimee Hilburn are pacing the fourth-ranked Lady Cats on offense.

Quintana is averaging 11 points and 5.5 assists a game, plus she’s shooting 43 percent (15-of-35) from 3-point range. Blackmon averages 10 points and seven rebounds a game while Hilburn kicks in 10 points and 4.5 assists.

“It’s good to be going out and playing basketball this time of year,” Watters said. “And the girls would rather be playing than practicing.”

Capital City Invitational
At Santa Fe
Thursday’s quarterfinalsFriday’s semifinals

Santa Fe High-Pojoaque loser vs. Taos-Los Lunas loser, 1:30 p.m.
St. Michael’s-Clovis loser vs. La Cueva-Pueblo South loser, 3:30 p.m.

St. Michael’s-Clovis winner vs. La Cueva-Pueblo South winner, 6:30 p.m.
Santa Fe High-Pojoaque winner vs. Taos-Los Lunas winner, 8 p.m.
Saturday’s finals
7th place, 1:30 p.m.
5th place, 3:30 p.m.
3rd place, 6:30 p.m.
Championship, 8 p.m.

Mel Otero Invitational
At Rio Rancho
Thursday’s quarterfinals

Rio Rancho vs. Pojoaque, 1 p.m.
Clovis vs. Los Alamos, 3 p.m.
Del Norte vs. Portales, 5 p.m.
Los Lunas vs. J.F. Kimble, 7 p.m.

Friday’s semifinals

Rio Rancho-Pojoaque loser vs. Clovis-Los Alamos loser, 1 p.m.
Del Norte-Portales loser vs. Los Lunas-J.F. Kimble loser, 3 p.m.
Del Norte-Portales winner vs. Los Lunas-J.F. Kimble winner, 5 p.m.
Rio Rancho-Pojoaque winner vs. Clovis-Los Alamos winner, 7 p.m.
Saturday’s finals
7th place, 1 p.m.
5th place, 3 p.m.
3rd place, 5 p.m.
Championship, 7 p.m.