Hobbs started strong, but Clovis finished strong. And the Wildcats aim to do the same thing in March.
The visiting Eagles jumped out to a 9-0 lead a minute-and-a-half in, but the Wildcats outscored Hobbs 44-17 the rest of the half and weren’t challenged in the second half of an 85-66 District 4-5A championship victory Saturday night at Rock Staubus Gymnasium.
“I told the kids that what I liked about it is how we responded,” Clovis coach J.D. Isler said. “Hobbs came to play; we knew they would. We responded, and that’s what champions do.”
The win makes it nine in a row for Clovis (24-2), and it’s also the fourth-consecutive 4-5A tournament championship for the Wildcats.
Lathan Lieb scored a game-high 33 points, while Craig Cook scored 13 of his 20 points in the first half — including 1-of-2 free throws with 44 seconds left in the first quarter to give Clovis the lead for good.
Other than Hobbs’ 6-of-9 shooting in the first quarter, the rest of the game was dominated by Clovis, including a 37-28 advantage on the boards and a 27-turnover night for the Eagles.
“Turnovers really were the difference,” Hobbs coach Russ Gilmore said. “We (improved) in the second half when I moved (Aaron) Ibarra to the point. It’s my fault, because I should have done that sooner. He hasn’t played that much, but he can see over them and that made a difference.”
Lieb, who punctuated the night with a 3-pointer to give Clovis its biggest lead at 81-55, said the work on the boards makes the Wildcats dangerous.
Lincoln (Nora) and Craig, they get rebounds. D.J. (Blackmon) crashes the boards, and John Dawson’s really athletic,” Lieb said. “We’re not tall, but we definitely go in there and fight.”
Erik Menchaca and Shay Reimers each scored 17 for Hobbs (12-16), while Dane Pannell added 10. Blackmon scored 11 for Clovis.
Now Hobbs and Clovis play the waiting game, as the New Mexico Activities Association will seed the tournament Sunday evening. Clovis hopes it can get the top spot in the 16-team field, and Hobbs hopes it gets consideration near the bottom.
Clovis and Onate (22-4) are the frontrunners for the top seed in 5A. Clovis has two fewer losses, but suffered a 65-59 loss to the Knights on Dec. 17. Also, the Knights have lost just one game to New Mexico teams, while Clovis also took a defeat to Cleveland.
But Isler points to how well the Wildcats have rebounded. They won nine straight after losing to Onate, and they’re on a nine-game streak after the road loss to the Storm.
“There’s nothing else we can do,” Isler said. “We’ve traveled, we haven’t dodged any competition. I don’t know how long you can keep holding (the Onate game) over our heads.”
Hobbs, meanwhile, has one of just five losing records in Class 5A, but they’re 6-5 against Class 5A and the losses are to Clovis, Onate and Eldorado — who may end up as three of 5A’s top four seeds.
“We’ve got to play some pattycakes, if all they look at is record,” Gilmore said.