Clovis basketball teams ride defenses to unbeaten starts

Clovis junior Vanessa O’Neal pressures Frenship’s Danielle Blakeley Monday night at Rock Staubus Gym. No team has scored more than 47 points on the Lady Wildcats this season. (CNJ staff photo: Mike Linn)

By John Eisel: CNJ sports writer

The Clovis boys basketball team weathered the storm unscathed. Despite not being at full strength because of football, the Wildcats have come out of their first five games undefeated, and boys coach J.D. Isler credits the defense.

Through the first five games, the Wildcats are allowing 39.8 points a game and their opponents are shooting less than 35 percent from the field.

“That tells you you’re playing pretty well defensively,” Isler said.

The entire team only practiced a few days last week before they went to the Artesia tournament because of football. Isler said that caused a lack of chemistry of offense, leading to a lot of turnovers.

But Clovis overcame it.

“That we’re able to be undefeated with only three days practice for everyone speaks well of our players,” Isler said.
The veteran varsity players took it upon themselves to carry the team and help the younger players.

“The seniors had to step it up even more,” senior point guard Tizrick Phillips said. “We had to act kind of like coaches out on the court.”

Senior post Tigg Bunton is averaging 20 points, with Dominique Easterlin adding 11 a game and Phillips eight this season.

Isler said he expects the defense to improve even more, as he will start using the full-court press more often.

“We couldn’t do that because we didn’t have a bench,” Isler said.

Even though being undefeated now won’t mean much if the Wildcats can’t continue their success into the district season, Isler said he likes the mindset it brings to his team.

“Having expectations to be undefeated is important,” he said. “You want your guys to step on the floor expecting to win.”

Defense has also led the way for the Lady Cats, who at 8-0 are ranked No. 2 in Class 5A.

Similarly, the Lady Cats are allowing 39.9 points a game. They’ve won by an average of 22 points a game.

Lady Cats Blackmon and Tori Quintana said they’ve improved on defense, something coach Miles Watters has stressed this year. Better conditioning has led to better execution, especially in the full-court press.

Quintana said good defense has helped the offense because of fast-break points and the team’s tenacity has worn out opponents.

Neither Quintana nor Blackmon was too concerned about becoming too confident despite the good start.

They have their eyes set on overtaking Mayfield for the top rank in the state, but it’s fine if it doesn’t happen during the regular season.

“Being ranked No. 2 and having to prove it at the end of the year at state is pretty good, too,” Quintana said.