Lady Cats cruise in tourney finals

Clovis senior Aimee Hilburn snares a lob passfrom Hobbs’ Kody Engle during the second half of Saturday’s District 4-5A girls tournament championship game. (CNJ staff photo: Rick White)

By Dave Wagner: CNJ sports writer

Clovis High’s defending Class 5A girls state champions weren’t about to take any chances in Saturday’s District 4-5A tournament finale at Rock Staubus Gym.

Facing a Hobbs team which plays a deliberate pace, the Lady Wildcats broke the game open early with a 14-0 run and stayed comfortably in front en route to a 48-31 victory.

Senior post Brittany Blackmon scored 13 points and senior forward Aimee Hilburn added 12, but the Lady Cats got a key second-quarter contribution from their reserves with those two and sophomore Ebony Bunton all on the bench with two fouls.

Reserves Jessica Russell, Vanessa O’Neal and Jasmine McDonald played most of the period with senior guard Tori Quintana and junior guard Tori Northcutt, and helped keep Clovis in front 24-12 at halftime.

“Those girls were defending so well, even though they weren’t scoring much,” Lady Cats coach Miles Watters said. “T-bird (Northcutt) did a great job on (Hobbs senior forward Ashley) Jackson.

“Once we got through that second quarter, I felt like we were able to get our offensive weapons back.”

Quintana capped the first quarter with a 30-foot, buzzer-beating bank shot for a 16-5 lead.

“I just threw it up there,” said Quintana, who finished with seven points. “I guess they (Lady Eagles) knew I was going to shoot the ball. I don’t even know if I was looking.”

Hobbs went just 3-for-12 from the field in the first half with 14 turnovers. Jackson had their only four field goals of the game until Salena Florez scored on a short bank shot with just over a minute left in the third quarter, making it 35-18.

Jackson finished with 16 points for the Lady Eagles (22-6), but no one else had more than five.

“We have a hard time scoring against them because their big,” said Hobbs coach and former Clovis assistant Johnny Casaus, whose team has lost three times to Clovis this month. “I thought we did a good job defensively against them this time.

“Clovis has made us a better team, regardless of what the score says. We’re doing a better job of running our offensive sets than we were before district started.”

Quintana said the Lady Cats weren’t particularly nervous, but added that it’s tough playing Hobbs.

“They have a lot of quick guards, and they set those high screens,” she said. “You have to come out defensive-minded.

“Our posts did a good job tonight, and I thought we defended their guards well.”

The Lady Cats finished 18-for-35 from the field, including 6-for-8 by Blackman and 5-for-9 by Hilburn. Meantime, they held Hobbs to 10-of-31 field goal shooting (32 percent).

Clovis appears well-positioned to make another state run. The Lady Cats will host a regional game at 7 p.m. next Friday, likely as a No. 1 seed.

“We’re excited to win the district championship, and we’re looking forward to being at home next Friday,” Watters said.