If his 9-for-9 night at the free throw line or his third-quarter dunk were any indication, senior Drew Cole found his Friday night a lot easier when there wasn’t a defender between him and the basket.
The third quarter was the same indication for the Wildcats, who ran an efficient transition attack to a 28-point period that paved the way for an 82-68 victory over Hope Christian at Rock Staubus Gymnasium.
Cole finished with 17 points, while senior D.J. Blackmon scored 10 of his career-high 31 points in the third quarter.
Clovis (12-6) never trailed against the Class 3A Huskies, but certainly needed the third quarter and its 11-of-14 shooting effort to provide some cushion.
“A big reason we won tonight was the assistant coaches really did their job tonight,” Clovis coach Matt King said, in reference to coaches Corey Pickett and Scott Robinson talking at the half. “They kept telling us, ‘We’ve got to get out and run, we’ve got to get out and run.’
“We’ve got to be like that every game. When the ball movement is there and we run like that, we’re very good.”
The Huskies (9-9), who got 16 each from Tommy Riley, Austen Drake and Dedrick Milford, rallied midway through the third on a Zac Garcia 3-pointer to knot it up at 39.
But the Wildcats responded with a 6-0 run on two Cole free throws and two Blackmon layups — one off a baseball pass from Cole and another from forward Dijon Ford on a tic-tac-toe passing play started by Cole.
“We just needed to push the ball,” said Cole, a 6-foot-7 forward committed to Eastern New Mexico University next season. “That’s where we’re good, running out in front of everybody.”
Blackmon, fifth on the Clovis career scoring list with 1,288 points and now 31 points from passing Bryce Hill for fourth, has always been a consistent scorer but had never registered a 30-point game until his 11-of-18 Friday night effort to go with a team-high 13 rebounds.
Players like that are why Hope Christian coach Jim Murphy continues to schedule a schedule heavy on Class 5A opponents, even if it’s technically a rebuilding year for last year’s Class 3A runnerup.
“I think they’re athletic and they’re tough,” Murphy said of the Wildcats. “We never adjusted. We graduated 10 seniors, we’ve had some injuries, but our kids play hard and we hope it will help us come district.”
The Huskies will take a 6-8 record against 5A teams into Hobbs Saturday night.
King, whose squad faces Lovington Tuesday before making the trip to Ralph Tasker Arena on Friday to open District 4-5A play, said a win over the Huskies is always a quality win.
“You arguably can say that’s the best program in the state, no matter the class(ificiation), over the last five years,” King said. “They’re run by as good a man as you could possibly find. It’s good to get a win.”