CHS’ Northcutt signs with Zias

CNJ file photo Clovis High senior Tori Northcutt, shown in a December game against Amarillo High, helped the Lady Wildcats reach the Class 5A state championship game for the third time in the last four seasons.

By Dave Wagner: CNJ sports writer

Tori Northcutt won’t be going far from home to play college basketball, and she’s happy about that.

The Clovis High senior guard signed a national letter of intent on Monday to play for coach Linden Weese at Eastern New Mexico University.

“When I made my decision, it was such a relief,” said Northcutt, a three-year starter and four-year letterwinner for the Lady Wildcats. “I liked coach Weese and I liked the team. And it wasn’t too far from home.”

Northcutt averaged 13 1/2 points and just over five assists this season, helping the Lady Cats to a 22-6 record and their third trip to the Class 5A state championship game in four years. They lost to Mayfield in the finals 61-42.

Mayfield also beat CHS for the 2004 state title, while Clovis topped the Lady Trojans 49-46 in a battle of unbeatens to win the 2005 crown. The Lady Cats were ousted the following year by eventual champion Gallup in the semifinals.

Clovis went 106-13 in her four seasons.

“I don’t think people realize what an intregal part of our success the last four years she was,” CHS girls coach Miles Watters said. “She’s kind of a quiet player. Things she does don’t always show up on the stats.”

He said that with the graduation of standouts Aimee Hilburn, Brittany Blackmon and Tori Quintana a year ago, Northcutt had much more of a leadership role.

“This year, she made huge leaps and bounds of improvement,” Watters said. “She was really the glue that held us together.”

Northcutt said she was considering Regis University in Denver and Merchant Marine Academy near New York City — both, like ENMU, NCAA Division II schools — as well as South Plains, a junior college in Levelland, Texas.

She said playing close to home is, for her, ideal.

“When we played at home, we usually got the home crowd out,” she said of CHS. “But Eastern’s not too far away, so it won’t be too much of a change.

“I think it’ll challenge me.”

The Zias are coming off a 14-12 record in Weese’s first season, recovering from an 0-7 start to finish 5-9 in Lone Star Conference South Division play.