Clovis High boys basketball coach J.D. Isler watches as junior Bryce Hill, left, plays defense against sophomore Patrick Duffield during practice on Tuesday morning. (CNJ staff photo: Tony Bullocks)
By Dave Wagner: CNJ sports writer
The Clovis High boys are hoping for a little less exciting matchup against Pampa than the last time they faced the Harvesters.
The teams collided in the finals of last year’s Milk Cow Classic at Rock Staubus Gym, and the Wildcats pulled out an 89-88 overtime win for their fifth title in six years.
The Cats put their 8-0 record on the line against Pampa in Thursday’s last quarterfinal matchup in this year’s Milk Cow Classic.
CHS boys coach J.D. Isler said his staff scouted Pampa during an early-season game, but he added that he’s really not sure what to expect.
“It really doesn’t make any difference who we play,” Isler said. “I think this might be the best field (in the tournament) since I’ve been here.
“I’m sure they’ll come in here with a little revenge factor.”
Amarillo Tascosa and Santa Fe High are opposite Clovis and Pampa in the bracket, and meet in Thursday’s 11:10 a.m. opener. The other side of the bracket includes Rio Rancho and Manzano, ranked 1-2 in an Albuquerque TV station’s Class 5A poll, while Isler said that tournament regular Abilene Cooper should also be formidable.
“We hope to get to play Manzano or Rio Rancho (somewhere in the tournament),” Isler said. “We’ll play Rio Rancho in about three weeks (Jan. 19) at their place.”
That trip also includes a game the following night against another formidable 5A foe, Sandia.
“We scheduled that road trip to Albuquerque to kind of test our kids and get some playoff-caliber experience,” Isler said.
So far, things have gone pretty well for the Cats.
“I’m happy with what we’ve done,” said senior guard Cody Thornsbury, one of four Cats averaging in double figures so far. “We work well together and we have such great chemistry that I think we can win even if we aren’t playing that well.
“We practice hard, and that makes the games (seem) easy.”
Still, Thornsbury isn’t expecting a cakewalk for the Cats this weekend.
“I think this tournament should be really tough,” he said.
With eight players rotating most of the minutes, the Cats have been able to get games going up and down. Still, that’s an area Isler said can be improved.
“The positive from our press is that the tempo is up,” he said. “But we’ve made some mistakes in our press, and we haven’t had a lot of practice time to work on it.”
Milk Cow Classic
At Rock Staubus Gym
Amarillo Tascosa vs. Santa Fe High, 11:10 a.m.
Rio Rancho vs. St. Michael’s, 12:50 p.m.
Abilene Cooper vs. Manzano, 4:10 p.m.
Pampa vs. Clovis, 7:30 p.m.
Cooper-Manzano loser vs. Rio Rancho-St. Michael’s loser, 11:10 a.m.
Tascosa-Santa Fe High loser vs. Pampa-Clovis loser, 12:50 or 7:30 p.m.
Cooper-Manzano winner vs. Rio Rancho-St. Michael’s winner, 4:10 p.m.
Tascosa-Santa Fe High winner vs. Pampa-Clovis winner, 12:50 or 7:30 p.m.
7th place, 11:10 a.m.
5th place, 2:50 p.m.
3rd place, 4:10 p.m.
Championship, 7:30 p.m.
Note: Clovis will play in each of the evening sessions. Second and third games will be adjusted as necessary.