What began as a physical game ended up as a war of attrition for the host Clovis Wildcats as they were defeated by El Paso Bowie 70-69 in the Milk Cow Classic Tuesday.
The loss of three players to fouls early in the fourth quarter, combined with 48 percent free throw shooting, doomed the Cats (5-4), who never led in the contest.
Bowie goes on to face Santa Fe in the championship while Clovis will take on St. Mike's in the 7:30 p.m. consolation final.
Clovis did tie the score up at 41 late in the third quarter and still managed to keep their foot in the door until the last shot.
“The kids’ effort was really good, we just got into so much foul trouble we had to keep battling back,” said Clovis coach J.D. Isler. “Some of the things you look for from a game like this is, ‘Did they give up?’ No they didn’t. I was disappointed with the loss but I’m not disappointed with the kids.”
Clovis served notice early on Bowie’s 6-foot-4 senior post Nnamdi Ezenwa that he wasn’t in for a typical game. By the end of the first period Ezenwa was in foul trouble and on the bench.
Clovis paid the price as foul trouble mounted for them as well with Marcus Slocum, Logan Turnbow and Kyler Brewer-Hill all fouling out early in the fourth period. Isler said that left his team with some unfamiliar combinations on the court and hampered the attack to some degree.
After posting a 49-41 lead at the end of three, the Bears (15-1) found themselves in a street fight by the three minute mark.
After Clovis junior Lincoln Nora hit a pair of free throws to make it 58-54, junior Deven Crockett popped in a turn-around jumper in the paint a few moments later to close the gap to 59-56. Then Crockett hit a trey from the top of the key with 1:07 left to make it 60-59.
Ezenwa missed both ends of a two-shot foul that could have salted away the victory for Bowie and Clovis still had life with 44 seconds to play.
The Cats worked the clock down to 10 seconds before they got Alex Flores open on the perimeter for a chance to win but it bounced high and away off the rim. Miraculously Bowie was to give Clovis one last chance with a turnover with four seconds to play. Crockett dribbled the length of the court and got up a shot just outside the paint at the buzzer but it wouldn’t fall either.
“We still had chances at the end,” Isler said, noting that Flores and Crockett got pretty much the shot intended. “I thought we made some young mistakes tonight that I don’t think we’ll be making in a few weeks.”
Bowie coach Peter Morales knew from competing in the Milk Cow Classic last year that Clovis would be a tough.
“We knew coming in here it was going to be a tough game in their gym in front of their crowd,” said Morales. “I told the kids we had to control the tempo and be mentally tough throughout the game. At times we made some mental mistakes that hurt us but they came back and made up for those mistakes.”
Crockett led all scorers with 24 on the night. Landyn Snipes added nine and Turnbow and Brewer-Hill each contributed six.
For the Bears, Omar Acosta had 20 points, while Ezenwa dumped in 18. Daniel Camacho and Ramon Celis-Sanchez each added 11.