By Greg Price: CNJ sports writer
Although the Purple Pepper Shootout isn’t a tournament in the traditional sense, with a championship presentation or all-tournament team, both Clovis and Taos are taking the two-day event seriously.
The Wildcats (13-1) will square off against Taos (9-7) at 7:30 p.m. today at Rock Staubus Gym. Roswell High plays Amarillo High in today’s first match-up at 6 p.m.
On Saturday, Canyon replaces Amarillo High in the event and plays Clovis at 7:30 p.m. Roswell High and Taos meet at 6 p.m.
Clovis defeated Taos in last year’s Purple Pepper 70-51.
After a stretch of six games in 11 days over the Christmas break, the Cats have taken some time to recharge their batteries, coach J. D. Isler said.
“You get fatigued and we needed a couple days off,” Isler said. “Now (the players) are back in school and in a routine, so that definitely helps.”
In last weekend’s wins over Moriarty and Goddard, Isler said he noticed the team’s failure to body up cutters in the lane and rebounding.
“We’ve been putting a lot of emphasis on chesting cutters and boxing out,” Isler said. “That’s something we’ve always emphasized because of our (relative lack of) size.”
Offensively, the Cats won’t change their mix of penetrate-and-dish and transition speed, but Isler said their post play has gradually improved.
“Our post game,” Isler said, “has continuted to get better every game.”
Taos coach Richard Apodaca said his team plans to mix up its defense, adding that the Class 4A Tigers have had success with both man-to-man and zone.
Apodaca, a former assistant to Portales coach Mark Gallego, said Clovis will be the best team the Tigers face all season. But he said they expect to leave The Rock with a victory.
“We’re not going to play anybody as good as Clovis for the rest of the year,” he said. “For us, it’s a matter of trying to be in every quarter, and in the fourth making a run.”
The Tigers will start four guards, hoping to contain Clovis’ three-headed backcourt monster of juniors Bryce Hill and Jaden Isler and senior Cody Thornsbury.
“I don’t think anyone has really made Clovis play defense this season,” Apodaca said. “We’re going to match up with their shooters and try to take away their transition game.”
Purple Pepper Shootout
At Rock Staubus Gym
Amarillo High vs. Roswell High, 6 p.m.
Taos vs. Clovis, 7:30 p.m.
Roswell High vs. Taos, 6 p.m.
Canyon vs. Clovis, 7:30 p.m.