Cats win belated opener

CNJ staff

ARTESIA — It was a little rough around the edges, but it’s a win.

Five days after the majority of their players were playing in the Class 5A state championship football game, the Clovis High Wildcats opened their season with a 58-48 win over Lovington on Thursday in the first round of the City of Champions Classic.

The Cats struggled mightily in the first quarter, but wrested control of the contest by halftime and held off a late rally by Lovington (0-2).

Overall, Clovis coach J.D. Isler came away pleased with the effort.

“The kids really played well together,” Isler said. “I told them going in, ‘No matter how ugly it is, we’ve just got to find a way to win.’”

Senior Chris Finch finished with 12 points for the Cats, while sophomore guard Jaden Isler added 10.

“Our kids played hard, but you can only go so long when you’re not in (basketball) shape,” coach Isler said. “We shot poorly, partly because we didn’t have our legs in the second half.”

Truman Payne and Courtney Mackey scored 13 points apiece for Lovington.

Lovington, which played in the Class 3A football championship on Saturday, opened a 16-10 lead at the quarter before going cold. The Cats held Lovington to just two field goals in the second quarter and got a pair of 3-pointers from senior guard Cody Thornsbury, including one in the final seconds that opened a 28-22 halftime lead.

Lovington cut the margin to four points late in the game and had the ball, but missed a shot and Clovis rebuilt a 10-point lead near the end.

The Cats advanced to today’s 4:30 p.m. championship semifinal against El Paso Jefferson, which beat Taos 61-48 on Thursday.