On one end of the court, Dexter Correll and half of his Clovis teammates. On the other end, Arthur Calbert and the other half. Calbert and Correll shot free throws, and the first to miss would run a sprint with his makeshift entourage.
That’s when junior Kyler Brewer-Hill stepped in, instructing his teammates to “knock on wood” for Correll. Whether the impromptu floor-knocking created luck or coincidence, Correll outlasted Calbert and his teammates got a moment to rest.
In bigger ways, the Wildcats are hoping to create their own luck with playoff positioning at stake this week.
“As a coach, you worry because the games are so big,” Clovis coach J.D. Isler said. “We ran out of games that didn’t mean anything three weeks ago. Every game has big ramifications.”
The games start tonight, as the District 4-5A tournament opens tonight at Rock Staubus Gymnasium. The second-seeded Wildcats host the third-seeded Carlsbad Cavemen in a 7 p.m. affair.
On paper, the game doesn’t look like much of a contest. The Cavemen (14-16, 0-4) have lost their two games to Clovis by a combined 45 points, and the Wildcats are coming off an impressive 78-63 victory over top-seeded Hobbs, who won the district’s regular season title on point differential and will host tonight’s winner in a 7 p.m. Saturday contest.
But, those are all the reasons a Cavemen win would mean so much for both squads.
“Carlsbad’s going to play tough,” Isler said. “They’re on the bubble, and a win against us would certainly help.”
A win could make the Cavemen a lock for the playoffs — but could also sink Clovis to the bottom half, instead of the No. 5 seed Isler thinks is within reach. The top eight teams receive home games for the opening round of the state tournament.
But there is confidence on the side of Clovis, winners of four straight and seven of their last nine.
“We’re making free throws,” Isler said, “Playing good halfcourt defense and getting solid scoring from Tanner Adams, Bryan Pierson and Arthur.”
Isler thinks the seeding could have a lot of surprises on Sunday, and the tournament will just be a matter of who can string together four straight wins. The Wildcats have no reason to believe they couldn’t be that team with wins over top-ranked Manzano and fourth-ranked Hobbs.
“We’re playing a lot better now and we’re where we want to be,” senior Stefan Mills said after Friday’s win over Hobbs. “We’ve taken our lumps, but we’re playing our best basketball right now.”