Wildcats brace for pair of state’s best

If there's only one regular season boys game you catch at Rock Staubus Stadium … it's the Feb. 22 regular season finale against Hobbs. Everybody who wears Wildcat purple knows that.

But if you only see three regular season games, this weekend would likely fill out most of your ticket, as Clovis hosts No. 1 La Cueva Friday and No. 4 Eldorado Saturday.

"The district season makes a huge impact; that's really where the rubber meets the road," Clovis coach Matt King said. "But these are exciting games and they're big gmes, and they'll be fun."

The Bears are led by senior forward Bryce Alford, to be coached next year by his father Steve Alford at the University of New Mexico. He's been having a do-it-all season for the Bears leading the team in points (38.8), rebounds (9.5), assists (7.0), steals (2.3) and blocks (1.0), while shooting 59 percent from the field and 37 percent from beyond the arc.

The Wildcats will have little chance to catch their breath with the Eagles coming in next, led by senior guard Cullen Neal. The 6-foot-4 St. Mary's (Calif.) signee is averaging a team-high 25.9 points to go with 6.9 assists and 4.2 rebounds.

But King, despite his praise and respect for Alford and Neal, has insisted the scoreboard will only note Clovis, La Cueva and Eldorado this weekend.

"I think a lot of times when you play in games like these against really dynamic players," King said, "the game can become about the individual. But it isn't an individual game.

"We want it to be about team, and we want it to be about Clovis."

A sweep, or even a split, would certainly help the Wildcats for seeding purposes down the road. The Wildcats, ranked eighth in Class 5A, are 6-2 against 5A squads and bring a four-game winning streak into the weekend.

"We're excited about the opportunity," King said. "Practice has been good. The kids are really excited. I think there's buzz about the game. You play at Clovis for games like these; you coach at Clovis for games like these."

CATS CAPSULE

Clovis (11-4) vs. La Cueva (13-1) today, vs. Eldorado (11-3) Saturday

Times: Both games are scheduled for 7 p.m. at The Rock

Radio: KCLV-AM 1240, KTQM-FM 99.9

Last time out: The Wildcats, ranked No. 8 in Class 5A, have been idle since winning at Valley 64-59 on Saturday, their fourth-straight win. The top-ranked Bears defeated Rio Rancho 81-73, their 13th-straight win since dropping their season opener at Cibola. The No. 4 Eagles took a five-game winning streak into their Thursday night game at Sandia Prep.

Last meeting: Clovis defeated Eldorado 70-66 last January in Albuquerque. Clovis and La Cueva haven't played since the 2009 Class 5A quarterfinals, won 61-57 by the eventual 5A champion Bears.

La Cueva players to watch: G Bryce Alford, 6-3, Sr., G (38.8 ppg, 9.5 rpg, 7.0 apg, 2.3 spg, 1.0 bpg); Jordan Clark, 6-3, Sr., F (9.4 ppg, 8.7 rpg).

Eldorado players to watch: Cullen Neal, 6-4, Sr., G (25.9 ppg, 6.9 apg); Zach Lee, 6-7, Sr., C (12.4 ppg, 7.9 rpg).

— Compiled by Kevin Wilson

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