Opening District 17-3A with back-to-back losses, Clifton Cubs notch 60-52 victory over West Trojans to get back into the postseason conversation
Coming off an extended holiday break without playing a single game, the Clifton Cub boys basketball team quickly found themselves right back in the heat of District 17-3A competition.
Following a disappointing 61-55 loss to the Whitney Wildcats at home last Tuesday, the Cubs bounced back to knock off the West Trojans, 60-52, on the road last Friday to fight their way back into the district race conversation.
“We needed that one,” Clifton boys basketball head coach Tom Daniel said. “That was really a must-win for us, and it was good to get a road win too. It was good to finish the game out the way we did.”
With the win over West, the Cubs (1-2 in district, 7-11 overall) snapped a three-game losing streak heading into their open date in district this Tuesday. Clifton will hit to road for a non-district game at Rio Vista (4-18) at 6:15 p.m. Tuesday before returning to district play at 7:15 p.m. Friday by hosting Waco Harmony Science Academy (0-3, 0-8).
Clifton enjoyed a slim 29-26 halftime lead against West, but the Trojans rallied in the third. With the Cubs down by three late in the third quarter, junior Jacob Wells hit a three-pointer to tie the game going into the final frame. Then the Cubs went on an 18-4 run to start the fourth quarter to take control of the game.
In the crucial win over West, junior Andres Devora led the Cubs with 19 points, followed by sophomore Ray Ochoa with 12 and sophomore Joaquin De la Hoya with 10.
Coming out of the Christmas break with 13 days between games, the Cubs struggled early against Whitney. After the Wildcats built a five-point advantage before intermission, Whitney outscored Clifton, 22-12, in the third to open up a comfortable 50-35 lead. Even though the Cubs put up 20 points in the fourth quarter, it proved to be too little, too late. Against Whitney, Devora led Clifton with 18 points, followed by Wells with 12 and sophomore Brody Baggett with seven.
“I thought we played okay against Whitney,” Daniel said. “We dug ourselves a little bit too big of a hole. We were down by 15 and got it to four late. But we didn’t get enough stops in the third quarter when we needed to, so they were able to extend that lead out. Whitney is a good team. But the good news is we get to play them again in a few weeks.”
Prior to the holiday break, the Cubs opened district play with a 74-58 loss at Maypearl Dec. 20 despite a season-high 31 points from Devora, while Wells and Ochoa added eight points apiece.
Although just midway through the first round of district, Whitney (3-0, 14-8) have emerged as the early leaders, but no team has proven dominant with Grandview (2-1, 15-9), Maypearl (3-1, 15-11) Keene (1-1, 17-6), Clifton and West expected to challenge for playoff berths. After advancing to the playoffs with a 20-win season last year, Maypearl returns with an experienced squad boasting seven seniors on the roster.
“It’s still anybody’s guess,” Daniel said. “We’ll have a better idea after next week when we’re at the halfway point. The top six teams are so close in our district. I mean, West hasn’t won a game yet, but it was such a dogfight to get a win Friday. Maypearl and Whitney are undefeated, but they are not light years ahead of West. It’s pretty wild.”
Following the game in Maypearl, the Cubs did not play another game until Clifton resumed district competition by hosting Whitney Jan. 3. Getting an unusual 13 days off without playing a game, the Cubs originally had a non-district home game against Clarksville scheduled for Dec. 29, but the Tigers pulled out.
“We had some good practices and we had an intrasquad scrimmage when we came back from Christmas,” Daniel said. “It would have been nice to have a game during that time, but it was good to have all of that practice time. We didn’t have our full team healthy until that first day back. So that practice probably benefited us more than any non-district games would have done.”
With two final non-district tune-up games before the holiday break, the Cubs walked away with mixed results beginning with a promising 51-47 home victory over a talented Troy Trojan squad. Clifton jumped out to a 34-21 first half lead, then held off Troy in the second half for the win. Sinking four three-point shots, junior Andres Devora led the Cubs with 16 points, followed by junior Jacob Wells with 12 points while tossing in three from three-point range.
“We scored 34 points in the first half, and the shots were falling that night, for sure,” Daniel said. “We handled their big guy and made him work for everything he got. They’re a good team, and it was a good win.”
But the Cubs stumbled against the Waco Rappaport Meyer Ravens. Despite leading by three at halftime, the Clifton offensive attack went cold sinking only five field goals in the second half while finishing two of 10 from the free throw line.
“We shot very poorly,” Daniel said. “We didn’t play horrible, but we did not shoot the ball well. It was the worst shooting game we had all year. But we’ve already moved on to Maypearl. That’s what I told the kids. We didn’t play great, but the big one is coming up on Tuesday. If we clean a few things up, we’ll be alright.”
Photos by SIMONE WICHERS-VOSS
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