The Clovis Wildcats gave Espanola Valley all it could handle for 30 minutes. The battle-tested Sundevils gave the Wildcats 32.
Rodney Coles scored 24 points to lead three in double figures, and Espanola Valley improved to 8-1 against Class 5A with a 71-67 win Friday over Clovis.
Coles scored 13 in the fourth quarter alone — including a pair of free throws with 1:16 left to give the Class 4A Sundevils (17-1) the lead for good.
“I thought we hit the key free throws and hit a couple of key shots late,” said Sundevils coach Richard Martinez, whose squad won its 11th straight by going 10-of-10 from the line in the fourth quarter and holding Clovis (8-8) to 1-of-4 shooting with three turnovers after the first 30 minutes provided a 63-63 tie.
“We made the defensive plays we had to,” Clovis coach J.D. Isler said, “and we got the ball three straight times with the game tied in the fourth quarter, and just turned it over to them each time.
‘We didn’t handle the pressure at the very end of the game.”
The Sundevils face Hobbs on Saturday night and Martinez was happy for the hospitality and the chance to play a pair of 5A teams like the District 4-5A rivals.
“My intent wasn’t to beat them,” Martinez said of the scheduling decision. “The big thing is we have experience in games like this with teams of this caliber.”
Marcus Slocum started the game off with an alley-oop dunk en route to a team-high 15 points, and Clovis got solid contributions from freshman guard D.J. Blackmon and junior guard Deven Crockett. Blackmon, after passing out following a blow to the nose last Saturday, wore a protective face guard and finished with 12 points, while Crockett fought off knee and toe problems for 10.
Isler thought he got good minutes from those two, and post Kyler Brewer-Hill, who scored six points and hadn’t practiced since dislocating his shoulder Sunday.
“I liked the way we played,” Isler said. “I just didn’t like the last two minutes of the game.” Isler said he’s leaning toward sitting Crockett out until the Wildcats host on Hobbs Feb. 5, and he’s unsure on how to handle Brewer-Hill.
Logan Turnbow added 10 for Clovis, but was in foul trouble throughout — much to the relief of Martinez.
“Clovis is a solid team going to the rack,” Martinez said. “When you have a guy who’s 6-8 (like Turnbow), why not pound it inside?
The Wildcats are on the road Saturday against Goddard. Isler said the Wildcats’ slate of games puts them in a “Catch 22” situation where they need confidence to win, but they need to win to establish some confidence.
“I don’t think you can look out (at 5A),” Isler said, “and see anybody who’s played nearly the schedule we have.”