By Kevin Wilson
On a night where things quickly turned against Portales in the second half, coach Rickie McBroom’s silver lining was that the Rams were a better team Friday than they were Thursday.
Of course, the same was true of the Clovis Wildcats, which welcomed back guard Kamal Cass and rode a wave of energy and athleticism to a 62-46 win Friday night at the Ram Athletic Center.
Cass, held out of Clovis’ first four games with a knee injury suffered during football, scored a team-high 13 points in 19 minutes of action to lead a balanced effort for the Wildcats (3-2), who blew the contest open with a 19-2 burst in the third.
“It was a product of kids working really hard,” Clovis coach Matt King said. “I think we played hard all night, but in the third quarter we got some opportunities.”
D.D. Egbert added 12 for Clovis, while four others scored at least seven, including senior Traivon Sopila with seven points, four rebounds and what could only be described as a momentum-shifting offensive foul.
Off a third-quarter steal, one of six Portales turnovers in the period, Sopila took off and cocked back a one-handed dunk attempt. The miss went high off the rim, and Ram guard Matt Martinez was in position to take the charge, but the play got the Wildcat bench off their feet and seemed to push the on-court defense to a second gear.
“You can tell when Traivon’s active and engaged and doing the little things,” King said. “We’ll take that offensive foul any day. We need to see more like that out of him, and we will.”
McBroom thought his Rams played well against the 5A Wildcats, but a few bad minutes of transition defense turned the tides.
“We allowed them to open up the court, and they got some layups,” McBroom said. “They had two spurts, and that was the difference.”
Senior Zach Campbell had a game-high 15 points on 6-of-13 shooting for Portales, which took a split for the week going into the holiday and will be back in action Thursday at the Littlefield Invitational. The Rams (3-3) face Farwell in a 5 p.m. (CST) tipoff.
“We’re playing so much better than we were a week ago, or two weeks ago,” McBroom said. “We’re getting better every practice, every game and that’s such a positive. C-team, JV and varsity, every team played hard and together. I think that says volumes about our programs.”
King felt his squad, which faces Artesia on the road today, made improvements as well. With Cass back in the lineup, King said there wouldn’t be as much pressure on senior guard Willie McCray to score. McCray came in averaging 22 points, but was held to his first game below double figures this season with seven.
“Willie played a good floor game tonight,” King said. “There are games that he’s going to have to distribute and games where he’s going to have to take the scoring load. That’s part of being a good high school point guard, and tonight he played a really good floor game.”