Clovis took every loose ball it could find, and took back its holiday tournament.
The host Wildcats got it done with hustle points against a taller and quicker Amarillo Tascosa team, and never trailed in a 58-43 victory in Thursday’s Southwest Dairy Farmers Classic championship game.
Clovis (10-1), winners of five straight, got 27 points from tournament MVP Lathan Lieb as it claimed its holiday tournament for the first time since 2008.
The game swung convincingly to Clovis because two unselfish statistics — rebounds and free throw attempts — also swung to the Wildcats.
“We played with a lot of determination,” Clovis coach J.D. Isler said. “When there were loose balls, we got to them.”
The Rebels (9-8), who only start one player shorter than 6-foot-3, got outrebounded 32-22 by Clovis, including 12-7 on the offensive glass — and three of those offensive caroms came on a offensive series where they didn’t score.
“We just hustled the whole game,” said Clovis senior Craig Cook, who scored 10 points. “We went after every ball, really played with a lot of heart tonight.”
The Wildcats also got the benefit of the foul calls and held a 32-19 advantage on free throw attempts. Tascosa coach Roger Raper wasn’t sure Clovis earned as many calls as it got, but conceded that breaks go your way when you’re the team that hustles more.
“They beat us to loose balls,” Raper said. “Probably 90 percent of those plays, they scored.”
Isler credited Lincoln Nora, who scored just five points, but set the tone with rebounding and a pair of blocks that erased Clovis mistakes.
“I thought Lincoln gave a tough effort with his rebounding,” Isler said. “I think it shocked Tascosa. I think Craig Cook gives us a steady presence inside as well.”
The Rebels, meanwhile, showed their youth. They started five juniors, and Raper said there are growing pains.
“We’ve got a young team that’s still learning the game, still learning how to win on a consistent basis,” Raper said. “We came out a little shell-shocked tonight.”
Lamar Brittan scored 16 points and was joined on the all-tournament team by teammate Demeco Blue. Rashondric Sheppard scored 13 for Tascosa, which plays at Pampa Tuesday.
Clovis hosts Amarillo High Tuesday and Eldorado Friday, then heads to Sandia the next night. The next week features Highland and Cleveland back-to-back on the road before a Jan. 18 home date against Lubbock Christian.
“These next two weeks are brutal for us,” Isler said. “But I told them if you want to be one of the best teams in March, you have to play tough teams.”
Lieb averaged 24 points in the three wins, all by double figures. He was joined on the all-tournament team by sophomores John Dawson and D.J. Blackmon in the backcourt and Cook in the frontcourt.