HOBBS — With coach J.D. Isler back on the sidelines, the Clovis Wildcats got off to a nightmarish start against rival Hobbs on Friday night.
The Cats recovered in the second half to make a game of it, but fell to the Eagles 78-69.
Isler, suspended by the New Mexico Activities Association in December and reinstated for a time in January, was reinstated minutes before the start of Friday’s game.
Clovis had already clinched the regular-season district title, and will host a district tournament doubleheader next Saturday at Rock Staubus Gym. CHS athletic director Brian Stacy said Friday night that Carlsbad will play a boys/girls doubleheader at Hobbs on Thursday at 5 and 7 p.m., with the winners playing at Clovis in the 6 and 7:30 p.m. finals.
Senior Marcus Slocum scored 25 points and junior Deven Crockett added 23, but the Cats (13-10, 3-1 district) fell behind 5-0 when senior guard Zach Enriquez converted 5-of-6 free throws before the opening tipoff after Clovis was called for three technicals for dunking in warmups.
“We dug ourselves a pretty good hole,” said CHS assistant Scott Robinson, who served as interim coach for the four games Isler missed. “The second half, we did some things better.”
Enriquez finished with four 3-pointers and 21 points for the Eagles (19-7, 2-2). Senior forward Brandon Marinovich added 18 points, and senior forward DeBryce Evans chipped in 10.
Down 54-30 at the half and still trailing by 22 points after three periods, the Cats erupted in the final period, pulling to within eight points with less than four minutes left. Hobbs, though, converted enough free throws down the stretch to stay comfortable.
“In the fourth quarter we got our press going a little bit,” Robinson said. “We forced some turnovers and got some easy baskets.
“We really finished the game strong. If we’d played that way in the first half, it would’ve been a lot different situation.”
Senior post Logan Turnbow added 13 points for the Cats.