Lady Wildcats capture district championship

By Dave Wagner: Freedom Newspapers

Despite a nine-point cushion at halftime, Clovis High girls coach Miles Watters was convinced the Lady Wildcats could play better.

Clovis turned up the defensive heat in the second half, holding Hobbs to 12 points until the final two minutes and finished 56-38 win on Friday night at Rock Staubus Gym.

With their 12th-straght win, the Lady Wildcats captured the District 4-5A regular-season championship.

The Lady Cats (24-2, 4-0 district) will host either Hobbs (21-5, 2-2) or Carlsbad at 5 p.m. Feb. 25 in the district tournament championship game. Those teams meet Thursday in a semifinal game at Hobbs.

Sophomore Ebony Bunton scored 18 points and senior Brittany Blackmon added 17 points and seven rebounds for Clovis, which stretched its halftime margin to 18 by holding the Lady Eagles to just 2-of-12 shooting in the third quarter.

“We talked about playing with more energy in the second half,” Watters said. “I thought Vanessa (O’Neal) kind of gave us a spark (on defense) in the third quarter. We started running and the game got out of hand.

“Their guards can handle (the ball), and their posts set some good screens. If you play off them very much, they can hit a 3-pointer.”

Hobbs, which managed only 11 field goals in the Lady Cats’ 57-33 win in Hobbs on Feb. 13, struggled nearly as much this time. The Lady Eagles had just one field goal in the first 10 1/2 minutes, finishing 13-for-37 from the field, and committed 21 turnovers to nine for Clovis.

Hobbs coach Johnny Casaus said the pressure the Lady Cats put on his smallish guard corps made things tough.

“We did some things that we thought might work, and they did for a while,” he said. “But we aren’t able to recognize things quickly enough.

“Defensively, we’re just undersized when (6-foot senior post Aboney Young) got in foul trouble early, we had to go to a smaller post.”

Senior guard Tori Quintana’s 3-pointer just before the first-quarter buzzer gave Clovis an 18-7 lead, and the Lady Eagles never got closer than nine the rest of the way.

The Lady Cats broke it open with a 9-0 run that spanned about five minutes of the third quarter and made it 38-20. Hobbs went 2-of-12 from the field with eight turnovers in the period.

“I think we stepped up more in the second half,” Bunton said. “We were excited about being able to play at home (in the district tournament).

“We did a good job in the first half, but I think we did a better job in the second half.”

Bunton’s second 3-pointer of the night made it 56-30 with less than two minutes left. Both teams emptied the benches, and the Lady Eagles scored the game’s final eight points.

Clovis will host a district finals doubleheader on Saturday, with the boys playing the Carlsbad-at-Hobbs winner in the second half of the twin bill at 8 p.m.

“It’s good to win the regular-season district (title),” Watters said. “We should be excited to have both the boys and girls hosting next weekend.”