After spending the first three weeks on the road in a season full of road trips, the Clovis Wildcats had a home opener that would make them tough to beat on any court in the state.
That kind of opposition, Portales coach Rickie McBroom said, can only make the visiting Rams better.
"Our team has a lot of heart and grit, and that's what's going to get us to where we need to be," McBroom said following the Wildcats' 71-49 victory on Friday night at Rock Staubus Gym. "That's why we play people like Clovis, to help us get ready for what we'll see down the road."
The Wildcats (4-2) controlled the game on defense most of the night, and turned a comfortable halftime lead into a blowout when the offense kicked in.
Led by senior D.J. Blackmon's 18 points, the big story for Clovis was a efficient effort that forced 22 Rams turnovers, stifled the Portales perimeter game and only committed 12 fouls and nine turnovers.
"If we can have more assists than turnovers," Clovis coach Matt King said, "and we can guard the lines well — not just the 3-point line, but for them to shoot only four free throws is big for us — that's a big step forward, and I'm really happy with that."
The Wildcats took the lead for good with a 7-0 run midway through the first quarter, and ran away with it with a 19-4 run to start out the third quarter.
"First half, we played a little tentative," said Clovis senior Drew Cole, who carried the load prior to intermission with 11 of his 17 points. "We weren't doing as good a job of attacking the basket as we should have."
John Dawson added 11 for Clovis, including a one-handed flush in the second quarter off a steal by Cole.
The game was a turnaround from the Wildcats' 84-70 setback at Sandia last Saturday — a game King said the Matadors won in most areas.
"We were a much different team than we were Saturday night," King said. "That's a testament to our captains and our senior leaders. I'm proud of what they did this week."
Zach Blaeser scored 12 to lead Portales (1-3), while Reyes Calbert added eight points and three rebounds.
Both teams are in action again Saturday night, with McBroom's squad hosting Santa Rosa and the Wildcats entertaining Espanola Valley.