Eight teams are left in the hunt for a Class 5A basketball title. Without a big third quarter, Clovis risked not being one of them.
A first half where Sandia showed hints of a huge upset became a moot point with a 26-10 third period, including a 14-0 burst late, as second-seeded Clovis took an 81-61 victory Saturday night at Rock Staubus Gymnasium.
Clovis (25-2), a winner of 10 straight, closed out a 16-0 home season and will move on to a 9:45 a.m. Wednesday quarterfinal at The Pit against No. 7 Valley. The Vikings, who knocked out Clovis in last season’s quarterfinals, defeated Volcano Vista 46-45.
Lathan Lieb scored 32 to lead four in double figures for the Wildcats, and hit a dagger 3-pointer with 32 seconds left in the third to push the advantage to 59-40.
“We’re capable of going on those runs,” Clovis coach J.D. Isler said. “Lathan hit a big three. John John (Dawson) picked up his game, which helped us with D.J. (Blackmon) in foul trouble.”
Matadors junior Isaiah Rogers, who scored 16 points to tie Nicolas Sheridan-Perez for tops on his squad, stopped the bleeding with a jumper at the 15-second mark.
Blackmon added 15 and Dawson 12 for Clovis, but the biggest basket may have come from senior Lincoln Nora, who dunked in traffic with 5:21 left after Sandia had cut the lead to 15.
Nora, who had eight points, said the key was Clovis making hustle plays in the second half they didn’t make in the first half.
“Coach said we’re not a finesse team,” said Nora, who added six blocks. “We’re bending over for loose balls, they were diving. With our size, we have to be blue-collar, hustle for everything. In the first half, we weren’t doing that.”
Sandia, seeded 15th in Class 5A, saw its season end at 13-14 — but not before it gave Clovis a scare with four lead changes in the second quarter.
“We had about three or four defensive breakdowns,” third-year Matadors coach Alvin Broussard said of the disastrous third quarter. “You can’t give a team that good and that explosive those kinds of breakdowns.”
Isaiah Rogers and Nicolas Sheridan-Perez each scored 16 for the Matadors, who matched up well with Clovis but didn’t have enough weapons to keep up.
“(Lieb) can shoot the ball, he can go in and post up, he can shoot off the dribble,” Broussard said. “If you don’t execute your gameplan, you’re in for a rough night — especially at their place, which is a tough environment.”
Craig Cook scored 14 for the Wildcats, who have no plans of stopping now.
“Everyone on this team and everyone in the city is waiting for us to bring home a blue trophy,” Nora said, “and that’s what we’re going to try to do.”