It’s not hard for the Clovis Wildcats to get excited over a game against Hobbs at Ralph Tasker Arena.
Or two weeks later at Rock Staubus Gym.
“The best comes out of Hobbs and the best comes out of us,” Clovis senior Jaye Crockett said, “When the game’s hyped up like that, it gets the teams hyped up.”
The hype will be in Hobbs on Friday, as one of New Mexico’s most famous basketball rivalries is renewed — albeit with less luster than the 5A title game where they last met.
The Wildcats and Eagles were the top two teams in Class 5A last year, splitting their four games and going 56-2 against everybody else. But Clovis lost seven seniors, while the Eagles’ graduates included Jeff Taylor and Allen Tate from their 73-71 win at The Pit in Albuquerque last March.
“You can’t lose as many players as what we both lost and be back where we were a year ago,” Hobbs coach Russ Gilmore said.
Now, the Eagles are ranked third in Class 5A while the Wildcats are eighth. Clovis coach J.D. Isler figures the best way for the Wildcats (13-8) to climb the rankings is to win each of their two-game sets with Hobbs (19-4, 1-0) and Carlsbad.
Isler will not be on the Wildcats’ bench Friday. He will be serving a mandatory one-game suspension after being ejected for received two technical fouls in Tuesday’s loss at Trinity Christian.
Isler is allowed to watch the game from the stands, but he said he will instead go scout Carlsbad, Clovis’ next district opponent.
“The best thing I can do (Friday) to help the team is to scout our next opponent,” Isler said.
Seeding committee by-laws implemented this season stipulate that a district’s regular season champion cannot be seeded below the district tournament champion.
So now, these regular-season games are more important.
“Unfortunately, in our case, we only play four games,” Gilmore said, “so you’ve got to be on top of things.”
So far, Hobbs is on top, with Tuesday’s 80-53 win over Carlsbad.
The Eagles that return don’t have a 30-point scorer such as Taylor, Gilmore said, but Juhreece Thompson is one of four Hobbs players averaging double figures along with Josh Sanders, Shelby Reeves and Daniel Salazar.
The Wildcats are led by Crockett, averaging 30 points and 13 rebounds on the season. Isler’s not too concerned about Crockett or fellow seniors Stefan Mills and Arthur Calbert keeping their composure at Hobbs, but it’s pretty much a new experience for the other Wildcats.
“A big key for us is to handle all the emotion,” Isler said. “I know our guards are good enough to handle our press, and I know our posts are good enough to handle their posts.”
Whoever wins Friday will be in the driver’s seat for the next few weeks, unless the Cavemen (11-11, 0-1) can score an upset.
“ I think they’re a little inconsistent, but that’s the way a lot of teams are this year,” Isler said of Carlsbad. “We expect a tough game out of them. They’ve lost to some good people, and they’ve beaten some good people.”
District 4-5A boys
Hobbs 1-0 18-4
Clovis 0-0 13-8
Carlsbad 0-1 11-11
Hobbs 81, Carlsbad 53; Lubbock Trinity Christian 71, Clovis 56.
Clovis at Hobbs, 7 p.m.; Carlsbad at Artesia, 7 p.m.