Lady Cats finish sweep

Clovis’ Vanessa O’Neal looks to move around Portales’ Megan Kabrick during the first half of Tuesday’s game at Rock Staubus Gymnasium. Clovis defeated Portales 51-30. (CNJ staff photo: Eric Kluth)

By Jesse Wolfersberger: CNJ staff writer

If defense wins championships, the Clovis Lady Wildcats played a first half worthy of a ring.

Clovis held the visiting Portales Lady Rams to 10 first-half points en route to a 51-30 win Tuesday at Rock Staubus Gym. It was the Lady Cats’ third win in three tries against Portales this season.

Aimee Hilburn and Brittany Blackmon lead the Lady Cats (16-2) with 13 points each.

Clovis Coach Miles Watters said his team played much better defense Tuesday than in a 45-34 win over Portales on Dec. 30 in the finals of CHS’ Plateau Holiday Classic.

“We brought a lot of energy to the game and really set the tempo defensively,” Watters said. “We just never really let them get into it.”

Portales coach Brenda Gomez said she expected her team to come out hot against the Lady Cats.

“We’ve played better,” Gomez said. “They are a good team. We just didn’t play them as well as I thought we could and should.”

The Lady Cats played nearly perfect zone defense in the second quarter, holding Portales (12-6) to two points.

“That was a much better outing than we had against them last time,” Watters said. “It was a really satisfying game from a coaching standpoint. I thought we brought some energy that we haven’t had in some of our games.”

Gomez said her team had a hard time handling the Lady Cats’ pressure.

“They put so much pressure on you,” Gomez said. “It’s hard for us to see and get it to an open person.”

Clovis limited the touches of Navy signee Morgan Hill, holding Portales’ 6-foot senior post to four points.

“It was our interior defense, but it was also out guards putting so much pressure on their guards so they have pressure getting it in there,” Watters said. “It was a complete team effort to keep the ball out of Morgan’s hands.”

Tara Johnson led the Lady Rams with 10 points, followed by Briana Hernandez with six.

Hilburn said the Lady Cats were motivated to beat their rivals for the third time this season.

“We just got really pumped up on defense,” Hilburn said. “We were just into it tonight. I just wanted to beat them really bad. This was the last time you get to play them, so you just want to play really good and beat them really bad.”

Hilburn pulled down seven boards and dished out three assists despite playing only two minutes in the first quarter after picking up two quick fouls.

Watters said he knew Hilburn was going to have a good game before the opening tipoff.

“I saw her in warmups and she had a lot of bounce in her legs. I said to our coaches, ‘Aimee is going to play well,’” Watters said. “She had a great all-around game — scoring, passing, rebounding, handling the ball.”

Hill had seven rebounds for the Lady Rams. Portales turned the ball over 18 times compared to nine for Clovis.