Bunton shrugs off injury

Clovis senior Dominique Easterlin tries to put the shot up despite Coronado’s Tanner Thetford. Easterlin had 13 points and seven rebounds. (CNJ staff photo: Mike Linn)

CNJ Staff

Clovis senior Tigg Bunton walked across the court Friday at Rock Staubus Gymnasium with a heavy limp.

That limp was nowhere to be seen for the previous two hours, as Bunton had 27 points and 10 rebounds to help the Wildcats edged Lubbock Coronado 56-54.

“It’s throbbing right now,” he said of his ankle, which he rolled during Thursday’s practice, aggravating his Achilles’ tendon.

After Friday’s game, Clovis coach J.D. Isler said Bunton would probably sit Saturday’s game at Goddard, but once again Bunton suited up, leading the team with 18 points in two quarters of play as Clovis (13-1) topped the Rockets 63-41.

“He’s a competitor,” Isler said. “He wants to play.”

The runaway victory allowed Isler to sit a lot of the starters and get other players on the court.

“We played pretty sharp, pretty hard,” Isler said. “We kind of put it away about the start of the fourth quarter, rested starters, played subs.”

The Wildcats outscored the Rockets (2-11) 17-6 in the second quarter, when Isler said the Cats turned up the intensity defensively.

“We just made them take some tough shots and got them to run a little bit and got the tempo up, which is what we want,” he said.

Isler said he liked that senior post Dominique Easterlin was aggressive on offensive. He scored 16.

“He shot the ball well early and I think that gave him some confidence,” Isler said.

Isler was happy his team cruised to victory after two straight 2-point games.

“We’ve played awful hard and played some really good teams,” Isler added. “It was nice to get ahead and really rest our starters.”

That wasn’t the case Friday.

Down 56-54 with less than five seconds left, Coronado senior post Tyler Roye tried to put a shot up over the 6-foot-8 Bunton. The shot went awry, Roye wound up on the court, but no foul was called and the game ended, to the dismay of Roye and Lubbock coach Randy Dean.

After taking a 23-18 lead into halftime, Clovis increased the pressure and intensity on defense, leading to a 10-3 run to start the second half. Bunton and Easterlin each scored five points in the run. Easterlin finished with 13 points and seven rebounds.

Although down by double digits, the Mustangs (11-11) were patient, waiting for open shots off screens and cuts, eventually pulling to 41-38 by the end of the third.

“You’re either going to guard them for long periods of time or they’re going to score on you,” Isler said. “I thought our defense was real patient and made them work for all their shots.”
As fouls added up, the teams shot 21 free throws in the fourth quarter. For the game Coronado was 12 of 15 as Clovis went 15 of 24. The Mustangs had to foul Clovis late as the ’Cats held a small lead.

Tanner Thetford, who finished with 20 points, hit a 3-pointer with 21.9 seconds remaining to pull the Mustangs to 56-54.