Clovis High’s Jaden Isler splits Taos defenders Joe Montoya, left, and Juan Valdez during Friday’s game at Rock Staubus Gym. (CNJ staff photo: Andy DeLisle)
By Dave Wagner: CNJ sports writer
The Taos Tigers hung around for a half Friday night.
It didn’t take Clovis High’s boys long, however, to turn the game into a stunning runaway when play resumed.
The Wildcats unleashed devastating pressure defense and a deadly long-range game in a 41-point third quarter that carried them to a 68-33 victory in the weather-shortened Purple Pepper Shootout at Rock Staubus Gym.
Friday’s first game between Amarillo High and Roswell High was canceled when the Sandies couldn’t make the trip down. Tonight’s schedule has Taos playing Roswell High at 6 p.m. and the Cats taking on Canyon at 7:30 p.m.
Clovis shot 15-of-18 from the field in the third period, including 9-of-12 from 3-point range, while forcing Taos into 11 turnovers. CHS coach J.D. Isler said the nine treys was a school record for one quarter.
“They (Tigers) slowed the pace of the game down in the first half, and we had some turnovers,” Isler said.
Leading only 24-21, the Cats (14-1) got a 3-point basket by Bryce Hill and a three-point play by Cody Thornsbury in the first minute of the third period. Junior guard Jaden Isler took over from there, unleashing a run of four 3-pointers in a 57-second span midway through the period.
“When Jaden hit those 3s, it just broke it open,” coach Isler said.
Junior post Michael Lewis, who carried the Cats in the first half with 13 points, finished with a team-high 19 while Hill added 18 and Jaden Isler 17.
“We started trapping them and that opened up the 3-pointers,” said Lewis, who went 9-for-10 from the floor, mostly around the basket. “We have a bunch of great shooters, and that opens me and Layne (Strebeck) up inside.”
Hill went 7-for-11 from the field and 4-for-8 from 3-point range, while Jaden Isler was 6-of-13 and 5-of-10, respectively.
“That’s what the 3-pointer can do for you,” coach Isler said. “It can take you from a two-point game to a 15-point game in a hurry.”
The Cats trailed briefly 19-17 late in the second quarter before three baskets by Lewis keyed a 7-0 run that put Clovis in front for good.
“They have to honor him,” coach Isler said of Lewis. “When they start comeing out on us, we can drop it inside.”
Clovis went just 1-for-6 from 3-point range in the first half.
“When we’re not hitting 3s like that, we can get it inside,” Lewis said. “It’s not about who scores, as long as we score. We’re so balanced, everybody on our team can score.”
Two players did almost all the scoring for the Class 4A Tigers (9-8), with senior guards Juan Valdez and Joe Montoya scoring 15 and 12 points, respectively.