Clovis faces Sandia with state tourney hopes on line

Clovis coach J.D. Isler expects senior post and leading scorer Tigg Bunton to be double-teamed tonight. Bunton leads the team in scoring and rebounding. (Staff photo: Rick White)

By John Eisel: CNJ sports writer

What a difference one minute and 45 seconds can make.

Down 12 points to Sandia on the road Friday, Clovis scored the final 14 points of the game to pull off the victory 58-56.

The win elevated earned the Cats from the third seed instead of the fourth seed. Clovis coach J.D. Isler said that makes a big difference.

The fourth seed has to win three games, two of those on the road, to qualify for state. The third seed only has to win two games, one at home and the other on the road. The home game is against a team that played the night before.

The Cats will face Sandia at 7:30 p.m. tonight in Rock Staubus Gym. The Matadors beat Carlsbad 58-44 in Albuquerque on Monday.

“You’d much rather play at home than take a four-hour bus ride to Albuquerque and play them on their home court,” Isler said.

Clovis senior guard John Props said it takes the Cats a little while get into the flow of the game on the road, whereas in Rock Staubus Gym the team is comfortable and doesn’t take a tiring bus ride.

Also, a third seed doesn’t have to play back-to-back games Monday and Tuesday.

“It at least gives you a chance to prepare,” Isler said.

If Clovis wins tonight, it’ll travel to Hobbs on Thursday, with the winner facing Cibola on Saturday for the championship. The top two teams from the district tournament advance to state.

“This is what you work all season for, a chance to go to the state tournament,” Isler said.

Isler said Sandia will double-team Clovis leading scorer Tigg Bunton if he gets the ball in the paint.

“We have to make sure we find the open man and knock down some shots,” Isler said.

Props has been the main outside threat for Clovis recently. He scored 13 points in Friday’s win, including the 3-pointer that started the 14-0 run.

Isler said Props, who quarterbacked the Wildcats to the state championship game in football, just needed some time to find his shot.

“Coming out of football it takes a while to get really confident shooting and really feel comfortable and I think he’s at that point now, which is great for us, because this is the the most important part of the season,” Isler said.

Corrie Trujillo found his shot against Clovis, scoring 24 points. Isler said his team was more concerned about brothers David and Nate Kanyinda.

“The brothers are their main players, but obviously Trujillo can score,” Isler said. “So, we won’t be surprised this time for sure.”

Props said the team didn’t come out aggressively against Sandia, pointing out Trujillo scored most of his points in the first half and none in the fourth quarter.

Isler said he wants the Kanyindas and Trujillo to run as much as possible, so they’re worn out by the fourth quarter.

Sandia’s bench players had two points in Friday’s matchup.

District 4-5A
Sandia (15-10) at Clovis (21-5)
7:30 p.m. today
Last game:
Clovis won at Sandia 58-56 Friday. Sandia beat Carlsbad 58-44 Monday.
Sandia players to watch: David Kanyinda, PG, 5-11, Jr.; Nate Kanyinda, F, 6-4, Sr.; Corrie Trujillo, G, Sr.
Notable: Clovis senior forward Dominique Easterlin will play despite a swollen ankle which coach J.D. Isler said will prevent him from jumping very well.
Quotable: “It was just big that our kids didn’t quit being down that many.” — Isler on Friday’s comeback win when the Cats were down 17 going into the fourth quarter.
By the numbers: Clovis scored 27 points in the fourth quarter against Sandia. They had only 31 through three periods.