Wildcats rally in third quarter

Clovis’ Devin Sweet is fouled by Tascosa’s C.J. Johnson Monday at the Milk Cow Holiday Classic. (CNJ staff photo: Eric Kluth)

By Eric Butler: CNJ correspondent

Escaping with a one-point victory against Tascosa earlier in the season, the Clovis boys basketball team surely looked forward to showing the Rebels what it could do with its full complement of players.

Even with all of its football athletes now available on the hardwood, Clovis had a difficult time — at least for a half — in disposing of the Rebels 61-45 in the opening round of the Milk Cow Classic.

In earning a berth against Pampa in the semifinals, Clovis (9-0) held only a 28-27 lead midway through the third quarter.

But that’s when the Wildcats turned up the defensive pressure. A rash of resulting Tascosa (6-8) turnovers helped Clovis seize a 41-27 lead via a 13-0 run — a streak that took only three minutes on the game clock.

The run began when Tigg Bunton put back a miss from teammate Elliott Hita.

Dominique Easterlin then hit two free throws for the ‘Cats which, after a Rebels’ turnover, was followed by two more points from the charity stripe by Hita.

“We missed some layups and fumbled the ball a little bit. And that probably comes being off a couple of days,” Clovis coach J.D. Isler said. “We’ll be sharper tomorrow and we’re gonna have to be because Pampa has a good team.”

Even when the Clovis offensive engine was knocking and pinging around in the first half, the one constant was Bunton.

The Wildcats’ senior post player scored 30 points and grabbed 14 rebounds.

In the first half, Bunton accounted for 14 of his team’s total of 26 points.

“We couldn’t handle him at all,” said Tascosa coach Mike Carroll, whose team was led by Jefferey Gilmore’s 10 points. “We had a good game. He played hard — did a good job.”

The two schools met in the first game of the season for Clovis. In that game, Clovis held on for a 56-55 win as Tascosa missed a couple of chances in the end to take a victory.

Dominique Easterlin, who blocked the Rebels’ last try in the first meeting, ended up with 11 points Monday. Other than Bunton and Easterlin, however, scoring sources were tough to come by for the Wildcats as no other player had more than six points.

“We had been practicing, but we weren’t really ready,” said Bunton, who added he was glad to be back on the court for game action after the Christmas holiday. “I was. It (the break) took forever.” Isler, after the game, praised senior guard Jacob Jones. Despite scoring only four points while coming off the bench, Jones’ quickness and hustle in the back court preceded Clovis’ rejuvenation.

“He’s just real comfortable with his role. He always gives us a spark,” Isler said. “He plays real hard and gets his hand on a lot of balls.”