ARTESIA — The Clovis Wildcats’ weary legs may have gotten the best of them on Friday.
Leading through most of the first three quarters, the Cats couldn’t finish off El Paso Jefferson and the Foxes rallied for a 40-36 win in the championship semifinals of the City of Champions Classic.
With most of its players less than a week removed from the Class 5A state football championship game, Clovis (1-1) built a 23-17 halftime lead over the Foxes, fell behind in the third period and then rallied back for a one-point lead by period’s end.
But Jefferson held the Cats to two points in the first 6 1/2 minutes of the final period.
“They’re a quality team,” Clovis coach J.D. Isler said of the Foxes. “They’ve got a good shooting guard and a post that plays pretty well.”
Junior guard Cody Thornsbury hit a 3-pointer to trim the margin to 38-36 with 1:20 left. Jefferson missed a pair of 1-and-1 free throw opportunities to keep Clovis alive, but the Cats couldn’t convert a layup off a set play and senior Devin Sweet’s 1-and-1 free throw opportunity with eight seconds left was off the mark.
In the scramble for the rebound, the Foxes came away with the ball and got an insurance layup as time expired.
“We kind of hit a spell there where we struggled to score,” Isler said. “Then fatigue set in on us.
“We made some ‘young’ mistakes today. We’ll need a little time (to jell).”
Sophomore guard Jaden Isler was Clovis’ leading scorer with nine points. Josh Armendariz led all scorers with 13 points for Jefferson.
“We miss (6-foot-3 junior forward) Michael Lewis (out with an ankle injury),” Isler said. “If we can get him back next week, it’ll help us a bunch.
“The kids are playing hard; we’re just not real fluid yet. Defensively we played well enough to win the game, but we’ve still got to find a way to score.”