Creating turnovers isn’t the only reason the Clovis Wildcats press, Clovis coach J.D. Isler said. The press also disrupts the opposition’s timing, and they take shots they might have otherwise avoided.
Now, it’s got to work for four more games, as the Wildcats eye their first state title since 1979.
They’ll start it as the No. 2 seed in Class 5A. Winners of nine straight, Clovis (24-2) hosts 15th-seeded Sandia (13-13) 7 p.m. Saturday in first-round game.
The winner moves on to Albuquerque, and will play either No. 7 Valley or No. 10 Volcano Vista in a 9:45 a.m. Wednesday quarterfinal at The Pit.
Sandia and Clovis met earlier this season, with Clovis taking a 74-60 win Jan. 8 at home. But the game was much closer than the final score indicated, with the Wildcats nursing a three-point lead late in the fourth quarter and a few empty Sandia possessions preventing the upset.
So the question is, will the press work like it did in a win against Hobbs last week, where defensive pressure helped erase an early 9-0 deficit? Or will it be less effective, like the first time Clovis faced the Matadors?
Isler is hopeful it’s the former, and noted the fatigue in the January matchup. The Wildcats were coming off an 88-80 victory the previous night over then-No. 2 Eldorado — arguably the toughest win Clovis has had all year.
“It was a tough game, emotional game,” Isler said. “And we looked a step slow on film.”
The Matadors didn’t have ideal conditions either. They were also coming off back-to-back games, having played at Hope Christian the previous night, and coach Al Sanchez was filling in for Alvin Broussard, who stayed home due to sickness.
Isler noted Sandia is a talented team that won’t mind running at the Wildcats’ pace, and it will capitalize on mistakes.
“They’re really good in transition,” Isler said. “Isaiah Rogers, he makes them go. We gave up too many transition baskets to him off of our press. We have to keep him in front of us.
“Javon Brown’s really a penetrator. We need to do a good job keeping him from getting to the basket.”
Rogers scored 25 points in the January matchup.
Attempts to contact Broussard were unsuccessful.