Cats pull away late to turn back Rams

Jan. 13—It was a little tougher than perhaps expected, but Clovis High's came up with enough plays at the end on Friday night to turn back their rivals from Portales.

Senior forward J.J. Jones scored 16 points, including two key 3-pointers in the second half, as the Wildcats pulled away late for a 60-48 victory over PHS at the Ram Athletic Center.

The 6-foot-4 Jones hit a buzzer-beating trey in the third quarter to extend the Cats' lead to 40-36. He hit another one midway through the fourth to open a seven-point margin.

CHS boys coach Josh Mattox pointed to the first of the two as a major key.

"That sparked a momentum boost for us right there," he said. "He played pretty well. He hit some big shots for us tonight."

Four players reached double figures for Clovis (12-4), ranked ninth in Class 5A by MaxPreps. Along with Jones, senior center Marvin Cox finished with 12 points while junior guards Jayden Cox and Kalil Torres-Pierre each netted 11.

Mattox, whose team faced a quick turnaround on Saturday against Class 5A No. 2 Organ Mountain (11-1) at The Rock, said his squad just sort of got by against a Rams contingent which has no seniors.

"I don't feel like we played all that well," Mattox said. "A couple of (scoring) runs kind of saved us. At times, our emotions got the best of us."

For the Rams (10-7), ranked sixth in Class 4A this week, junior guard Jase Hightower tallied 14 points while junior guard Joel Lujan and sophomore post Carson Pfaffenberger garnered 10 points apiece. Pfaffenberger collected a double-double with 10 rebounds before fouling out in the final segment, while Lujan led the team in steals with four and junior forward Paxton Culpepper in assists with three.

"They're a good basketball team, but I'm proud of my guys," Rams coach Randy McBroom said. "They're hungry, and they're playing their tails off.

"I told our guys, 'I don't even feel like we lost. We just ran out of time.'"

Hightower's six second-quarter points helped push the Rams in front 26-24 at the half. The game then seesawed most of the third quarter.

In the final stanza, Marvin Cox scored to lift Clovis into a 45-41 lead and Jones followed with his second 3, giving the Cats enough cushion to hang on.

"We're heading in the right direction, and we're not playing our best basketball yet," McBroom said. "I want to be playing our best ball in February and March."

Clovis entertains Alamogordo on Friday night, then visits Atrisco Heritage on Saturday. The Rams were to host Texico on Tuesday night before facing Gallup in a neutral-court game on Jan. 22 at Estancia.

Portales 57, Moriarty 28 (Tuesday) — After a tight first quarter, the Rams held the Pintos (3-6) to just 10 points over the next two stanzas and ran away with it at the RAC.

Nine players contributed to the scoring column for Portales, led by Culpepper with 12 points and junior guard Bradley Aguilar with 10.

"Our kids played their butts off," McBroom said. "That team (Pintos) is a lot better than they showed tonight. Our kids battled and competed, and did the things that allowed us to win."

PHS led 23-14 at halftime, then outscored Moriarty 23-5 in the third canto.

"We took it to a whole 'nother level," McBroom said. "The kids did a great job."

The Pintos, playing for the first time since Dec. 21, were paced by 12 points from junior guard/forward Aidyn Pacheco — all coming in the first half.