La Cueva seeks to play spoiler to Lady Cats

Vanessa O’Neal is one of fove Clovis seniors who hoped to win back-to-back Class 5A state titles. (Staff photo: Rick White)

By Eric Butler: CNJ correspondent

The way La Cueva coach Greg Berger looks at it, there’s no way to completely shut down the top-ranked Clovis Lady Wildcats. But he has a theory that might make sense for the rest of the field in the Class 5A girls basketball playoffs.

It all has to do with Clovis’ three senior starters — Aimee Hilburn, Brittany Blackmon and Tori Quintana.

“Last time, we did a good job of controlling Quintana from the outside. She didn’t score as much as she’s capable of,” said Berger, whose team lost to the Lady Wildcats 68-40 at the Clovis holiday tournament. “But then Blackmon and Hilburn stepped in. Trying to keep two of the three in check, maybe the 8 to 10-point range, will be helpful.”

It’s a theory that may offer some hope for the rest of the field in the state tournament, which begins today. Clovis and La Cueva will play at 4:45 p.m. at The Pit.

Clovis (26-2) did suffer one of its two losses this season when two of the three senior starters had a poor shooting performance on the same night.

Against Mayfield, in Clovis, Hilburn and Quintana had an abysmal time from the field — together hitting only 4 of 19 shots — and the Trojans knocked off the Lady Cats 56-50.

Earlier in the season, the same two squads met at the Rio Rancho tournament championship. Blackmon, Hilburn and Quintana on that night made 64 percent of their collective shot attempts (21-of-33) and Clovis routed the Lady Trojans 65-40.

Still, Berger says there’s more to beating the Lady Cats than just those three.

“Sometimes a team will have two players and you’ll try to contain one and give the other one her points. They have, potentially, four or five — mainly the top three,” Berger said.
“I think we need to control the tempo of the game. They like to get up and down the floor; we’re more of a half-court team. I don’t know that we’ll sit on the ball, but I think we need to increase our time of possession.”

La Cueva (21-8), the ninth-seed entering the 5A postseason, won 35-30 at Los Lunas last weekend to advance.

That kind of close game was something Clovis missed out on as the Wildcats blew out Santa Fe 76-26.

Clovis coach Miles Watters said he wasn’t too concerned about the effects of the lopsided win on his team’s preparation.

“I’m not. We said we were going to take care of business and we did. I think they know the caliber they were playing (Friday) and Tuesday will be a different story,” Watters said.