Clovis coach J.D. Isler feels his Wildcats are playing with plenty of confidence early in the season. One game in, they’ve got plenty of reason.
The host Wildcats led for the final 30 minutes and dominated nearly every category in a 63-24 win over Portales Friday night at Rock Staubus Gym in the season opener for both teams.
Seniors Craig Cook and Lathan Lieb each scored 12 for Clovis, which took control with a 21-4 second quarter and held Portales scoreless for an eight-minute stretch to bridge the second and third quarters.
“I thought our effort and intensity was overall good,” Isler said. “Craig Cook’s playing with a lot more confidence. Lincoln Nora (10 points) is playing with a lot of confidence.”
Portales, meanwhile, played with patience and kept the game in range for an upset. But they were done in by 14 first-half turnovers and 9-of-42 shooting on the night.
“The really disheartening part was offensively, we didn’t run anything,” Portales coach Mark Gallegos said. “We panicked after we didn’t hit some easy shots, and our posts didn’t touch the ball.
“I’m not saying we’re going to pound the ball on them, but the ball has to go inside-out.”
Five players scored for Portales, with Andrew Villanueva and Stephen Shields scoring seven and Jesse Blue adding six.
Gallegos said for the Rams to have any measure of success, there have to be more touches for posts Trent Johnson and Garrett Hancock.
“I didn’t have us ready,” Gallegos said. “I felt like we could get going offensively, and we could do some things, and we just didn’t.”
Cook’s inside-outside game played a role in the 40-17 rebound advantage for the Wildcats, who had five players finish with at least eight points. The Wildcats could have had five in double figures, but sophomore point guard John Dawson (nine points) didn’t attempt a second-half shot and D.J. Blackmon (eight points) had a few second-half shots rim out.
“It’s an unselfish team,” Cook said. “Creating shots for each other is what we like to do.”
Cook and Lieb each hit two of Clovis’ five three pointers. Lieb’s came in a second-quarter flurry, as he scored eight points in the first 47 seconds to push the Wildcats to a 24-11 lead.
“I think that we’re going to shoot from the perimeter a lot better than we had (in recent seasons),” Isler said. “It’s going to be a nice team to coach and a nice team for our fans to watch.”
Both teams are back in action Tuesday night. Clovis hosts Plainview, while Portales visits two-time defending 4A champ Roswell High.
“We do that for a reason,” Gallegos said. “Everybody thinks we’re crazy for it, but it gets us better.”