Surprisingly enough, Clovis coach J.D. Isler wasn’t exactly thrilled about four more minutes of game experience for his Wildcats on Wednesday night. Of course, it was New Year’s Eve and his team was playing in the third-place game of its tournament — a rarity in Isler’s time at the school.
But the ‘Cats made the best of it and, after being forced into overtime, took a 70-67 victory over Los Lunas at Rock Staubus Gymnasium.
Clovis (7-4) struggled offensively in the early portions of the game before taking an 11-point lead late in the third quarter.
Los Lunas (5-7), however, chipped away and the Tigers eventually took a 58-57 lead on a shot by Colton Chavez with 1:40 left in the fourth quarter. A bucket by senior Jaye Crockett put Clovis back on top 17 seconds later and the Wildcats, after two free throws from Crockett with just over two seconds remaining, seemed relatively secure with a 61-58 advantage.
After a series of timeouts, though, Los Lunas’ Aaron Marquez was fouled trying to get off a tying 3-point shot. Given three chances at the free throw line, with no time remaining, Marquez sunk all three and sent the game into OT.
“I wasn’t really interested in having any extra experience at that point,” Isler said. “We actually talked about letting them inbound the ball and fouling them since we were up three. But we didn’t want to foul on the shot and that’s what we did.”
In the extra period, Clovis took a 68-66 lead on a fastbreak bucket by Arthur Calbert with 1:34 remaining. The Tigers got a free throw from Max Walter to trim the lead to one, but Stefan Mills — after Clovis milked over a minute off the clock — was fouled and made two free throws for another three-point margin.
This time, Walter was unable to get a shot off in time and the Wildcats headed into 2009 with a win.
“It was pretty intense and we just wanted to fight through it,” said senior Bryan Pierson, who finished with 14 points. “It was a challenge for us.”
Crockett led Clovis with 25 points while Calbert also tallied 14. Dexter Correll, who hit a pair of much-needed 3-pointers at the start of the second half, scored 10 points.
The Wildcats had struggled with long-distance shooting in a semifinal loss to Valley and in the first half against Los Lunas.
Marquez led the Tigers with 22 points and Spencer Waquie added 11.
“They’re physical, they’ve got some wide bodies and their guards are big, physical guards,” Isler said. “You know, it just seems like every team we play is just kind of the same.”
In the championship game of the tournament, played earlier in the day, Valley knocked off St. Michael’s 50-40. a