Lady Cats try to stay focused on Moriarty

By Dave Wagner: CNJ sports writer

Aimee Hilburn admits it’s a little hard not to look ahead this week.

Hilburn and her Clovis High teammates have business to tend to tonight when the Lady Wildcats host Moriarty in a 6:30 p.m. matchup at Rock Staubus Gym. Looming this weekend, though, is the Mel Otero Invite at Rio Rancho and a possible rematch of last year’s Class 5A state finals against Mayfield.

In addition, the Lady Cats will see either rival Portales or 5A state qualifier Highland in the second round, and could meet either Mayfield or Rio Rancho in the finals. Clovis has won 32 in a row — including a battle of unbeatens against Mayfield in last year’s title tilt — and 40 of its last 41.

“I’m pretty nervous, but I think we’re going to be OK,” said Hilburn, a 6-foot post who scored 15 points in the team’s 47-28 win at Portales on Friday. “If we can get some of our younger players to step up a little more, I think we’ll be able to hold our own.”

First off, though, it’s Moriarty, a team the Lady Cats beat 56-34 last year at Moriarty.

CHS girls coach Miles Watters noted that the Lady Pintos, who beat Ruidoso 46-37 at home on Nov. 26 in their only game to date, graduated their top player in post Jennette Spradley, who had 18 points in last year’s matchup.

At Portales, Watters had his team start in a 2-3 zone to protect players against foul trouble and ended up staying in it when the Lady Rams struggled to score.

“They were expecting us to run man(-to-man defense),” Hilburn said. “When we came out in a zone, I think it frustrated them a little bit.

“Portales always does good against us. I was actually kind of shocked (by the relatively lopsided outcome).”

Moriarty has a relatively young roster that includes three freshmen, and Watters expects his team to go back to a quicker pace tonight.

“I think it’s going to be more how we play and what we do,” he said. “We’re going to go back to our man defense and see if we can play faster.

“That’s the thing about this team. They’re smart enough to be able to adjust their style of play, and it’s nice to have a veteran group like that.”

Tonight’s game had originally been scheduled for Saturday night, but was moved back three nights because of Saturday’s Class 5A state football championship game in Las Cruces between Clovis and Mayfield, won by the Trojans 17-7.