The New Mexico/Arizona Challenge. No other words are needed.
There are New Mexico teams. There are Arizona teams. And host Clovis certainly expects a challenge.
The eight-team, eight-game showcase at Rock Staubus Gym features both Clovis boys and girls teams facing off with six teams who either won state championships or finished as state runnersup.
“It’s gong to be a really big challenge,” Clovis senior Kyler Brewer-Hill said. “I think we’re up to it. They’re high school teams, just like us. Their guys are the same age.”
That’s true, but there is a gap in national attention. The Clovis boys face Arizona 3A champ Estrella Foothills and Arizona State signee Corey Hawkins Friday, then Arizona signee Daniel Bejarano in Saturday’s game against Division 5A II champ Phoenix North. Both games are at 7:30 p.m.
Clovis’ girls, meanwhile, face Division 3A champion Monument Valley in a 4:30 p.m. matchup Friday and Division 5A II runnerup Pinnacle 6 p.m. Saturday.
Clovis girls coach Jeff Reed isn’t too concerned with the caliber of schools the Lady Cats will face.
“We’re more concerned with ourselves at this point of the season,” Reed said. “We need to handle the ball better, and shoot the ball better. Then we can start worrying about other teams.”
Clovis (9-3) is coming off a 53-38 loss to Canyon, ranked second in Texas 4A. The Lady Cats are looking forward to the challenge.
“We haven’t seen a team that we couldn’t beat, but we just haven’t been finishing games all that well,” senior guard Delaney Ware said. “If we play to our potential, we shouldn’t have any problems.”
The Portales girls (5-3) open each day of the tournament with 3 p.m. contests against Pinnacle today and Monument Valley on Saturday.
“They’ve got so much size,” Lady Rams coach Clay Stout said of Pinnacle. “They’re 6-5, 6-1 in the starting lineup. Then off the bench, they bring in a 6-foot-4 girl.”
Defending 4A New Mexico champ Roswell High rounds out the boys field, which Clovis coach J.D. Isler said may represent the toughest two-game set of the season.
“Estrella, they’re really guard-oriented,” he said. “They’re going to get out and press. In the halfcourt, they’ll want to penetrate and kick. I think they’v already had 500 3-point attempts.
“Phoenix North, their size is the key for them. They’re going to play a zone and kind of spread it out. We’re going to see a couple of different looks.”
The 6-foot-3 Hawkins, averaging 34.4 points per game, is the son of former NBA All-Star Hersey Hawkins. Clovis senior Landyn Snipes will have the task of guarding him.
“Landyn’s going to be guarding Hawkins most of the time, but we’re going to need to have somebody step up,” Brewer-Hill said. “Eventually, he’s going to get tired.”
Isler said Snipes is a good defender, but he has no expectations that Hawkins will be shut down.
“I don’t think you stop guys like that,” Isler said. “You just make them work for every shot.”
Tickets: $6 per game ($3 seniors/military/students). Day passes available for $10.
Estrella Foothills (14-1)
Classificiation: 3A. The Wolves are the defending 3A champions.
Coach: Ty Amundsen
Who to watch: Senior guard Corey Hawkins. The 6-foot-3 guard, who committed to Arizona State last season, leads the Wolves in scoring (34.4 ppg) and rebounding (10.4 rpg).
He is the son of former NBA All-Star Hersey Hawkins, who is an assistant coach for the Wolves.
The Clovis and Roswell guards also have a tough matchup with 5-foot-7 senior James Pierce. He’s averaging 16.6 points himself, to go with 5.9 assists and 4.2 steals per game.
Go figure: Amundsen is 98-10 in four seasons with Estrella Foothills.
Phoenix North (11-2)
Classification: Division 5A I. The Mustangs moved up this season after winning last year’s Division 5A II title.
Coach: Joseph Bustos
Who to watch: Daniel Bejarano, who committed to Arizona, leads a balanced Mustangs squad. In a 71-54 win over then-undefeated Hobbs Bejarano led four in double figures.
Bejarano leads Phoenix North at 16.6 points per game. Junior Alan Williams, who is pulling down 11.7 rebounds per game, will be a tough matchup on size alone (6-foot-7, 240 pounds). Robert Arvizu, a 6-foot-2, 190-pound guard, is dishing out 5.2 assists per game.
Classificiation: Division 5A II. The Pioneers finished as state runnerups last year with a 59-57 loss to Tolleson.
Coach: Jackie Clayton
Who to watch: Aley Rohde. The 6-foot-5 junior, who led the Pioneers in scoring and rebounding as a sophomore, is repeating the feat with 15.8 points and 9.9 rebounds per game.
Freshman guard Sydney Wiese is averaging 11.2 points and 4.4 assists per game.
Go figure: Of the Pioneers’ five losses, four have come by six or less.
Monument Valley (11-2)
Classification: Division 3A. The Mustangs are defending champions, and appear headed for a rematch with Winslow.
Coach: Robert Nash
Players to watch: Junior Bradley Nash hit the game-winning shot in last year’s 47-46 title game wni over Winslow. She is joined in the backcourt by 5-foot-5 sophomore Destinee Holiday. Returners in the frontcourt include 5-foot-7 junior Anjilique Black and 5-foot-8 senior Nicolette Parrish.
Go figure: The Mustangs have won 10 of their last 11, with the lone loss coming to Winslow. The Bulldogs were defeated 44-38 by Clovis in the first round of the Gallup Invitational.