Cats seek three-peat

Clovis’ Devin Sweet lays the ball in over teammate Jaden Isler during practice Monday at Rock Staubus Gymnasium. The Wildcats meet Amarillo Tascosa at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday in the first round of the Milk Cow Classic. (CNJ staff photo: Eric Kluth)

By Dave Wagner: CNJ sports writer

The Clovis High Wildcats are looking for a three-peat.

Clovis hosts the annual Milk Cow Classic basketball tournament from Wednesday through Friday at Rock Staubus Gym, and coach J.D. Isler expects the eight-team meet to be competitive up and down the line.

The Cats (5-3), coming off a 67-66 victory on Thursday when sophomore guard Jaden Isler converted two free throws with no time on the clock, are hoping to build on that win.

“It helped get our confidence up,” CHS junior post Michael Lewis said. “They were tough. They played strong in the post, but we defended them and we didn’t quit.”

Clovis opens against Amarillo Tascosa at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday. The Cats and Rebels were scheduled to meet Nov. 29 in the season opener in Amarillo, but that game was postponed due to Clovis’ participation in the Class 5A state football playoffs and so far has not been rescheduled.

Lewis, one of seven members of the Cats’ state runnerup football team, said the team is starting to get into a basketball groove.

“We’ve started to get there; we’re starting to jell now,” he said. “We’re having some time to practice, so we should come out and play better.”

Coach Isler scouted Tascosa earlier in the season and expects the Cats to have their hands full. The Rebels are led by 5-foot-7 senior point guard Jeff Gilmore, who scored 21 points in a regular-season game at Clovis last year.

“They’re very athletic,” he said. “ Their two guard are very quick; they penetrate well and shoot well.

“They’ll play uptempo and will try to press and trap.”

The Cats have beaten Rio Rancho in each of the last two championship games. Three years ago, they lost to the Rams in the semifinals en route to a third-place finish, and Rio Rancho also took second that season after losing to Abilene Cooper 61-51 in the finals.

Rio Rancho and Cooper meet in the day’s first game at 11:10 a.m., followed by Pampa, Texas, and Santa Fe St. Michael’s at 12:50 p.m.

In the first game of the other bracket, Aztec faces Rio Grande at 4:10 p.m.

Coach Isler said Abilene Cooper may be the tournament favorite, although others should be in a position to challenge the Cougars.

He’s more concerned about how the Cats come out.
“It’s going to be tough because they’re so athletic,” he said of Tascosa. “We haven’t done a good job of boxing out (on rebounds) to this point. That’ll be a point of emphasis in practice over the next couple of days.”

He agreed that the win over Coronado provided a lift for the Cats.

“Coronado was probably as physical a team as we’ll play all year,” he said. “They’re just a balanced team — they can shoot it from outside, and they can rebound.”

Milk Cow Classic
At Rock Staubus Gym
Wednesday’s games
Rio Rancho vs. Abilene Cooper, 11:10 a.m.
Pampa vs. Santa Fe St. Michael’s, 12:50 p.m.
Aztec vs. Rio Grande, 4:10 p.m.
Amarillo Tascosa vs. Clovis, 7:30 p.m.
Thursday’s games
Consolation semifinals
Rio Rancho-Pampa loser vs. Pampa-St. Michael’s loser, 11:10 a.m.
Aztec-Rio Grande loser vs. Tascosa-Clovis loser, 12:50 p.m. or 7:30 p.m.
Championship semifinals
Rio-Rancho-Cooper winner vs. Pampa-St. Michael’s winner, 4:10 p.m.
Aztec-Rio Grande winner vs. Tascosa-Clovis winner, 12:50 p.m. or 7:30 p.m.
Friday’s games
7th place, 11:10 a.m.
5th place, 12:50 p.m.
3rd place, 4:10 p.m.
Championship, 7:30 p.m.
Note: Clovis will play in 7:30 p.m. game each night, with brackets adjusted as necessary.