Lady Cats expect tougher test

Clovis sophomore post Brittany Blackmon helped the Lady Wildcats dominate Portales inside the last time the teams met. CNJ photo by Eric Kluth.

Kevin Wilson

Clovis coach Miles Watters thinks that the Lady ‘Cats blowout over Portales two weeks ago, albeit a great win, was an anomaly in the normally competitive series between the neighboring schools. Portales coach Brenda Gomez is hopeful her team can prove it tonight in Clovis.

The last time Portales (11-3) was on the floor at Rock Staubus Gym Clovis (14-2) beat the Lady Rams 57-39 in the title game of the Plateau Holiday Classic.

“We played exceptionally well and Portales didn’t have a very good outing last time,” Watters said, recalling the Dec. 31 win. “I’m sure it will be a dogfight. They’ve got a great team and three of the best guards in the state.”

Clovis leads the season series 2-0 over Portales, but the first matchup was much closer — the Lady ‘Cats needed a late rally for a 61-59 win.

Two weeks ago, Portales was coming off an upset over previously undefeated Rio Rancho in the Plateau Classic semifinals, and Gomez felt the blowout that followed resulted from her team being satisfied at that point.

“There shouldn’t be any other focus since it’s just Portales and Clovis,” Gomez said. “We shouldn’t be tired, we should be prepared.”

With two games down in the series, each squad knows what the other will do — Portales will go to guards Kassandra Richards, Erika Cook and Roni Gomez, while Clovis will run the offense through the sophomore trio of Aimee Hilburn, Brittany Blackmon and Tori Quintana.

“They’re guard-oriented and we’re post-oriented, so it’s kind of a battle of matchups,” Watters said. “It’s our height against their perimeter play. Last time out, we were able to take advantage of the post.”

That’s something Gomez is hoping doesn’t happen again.

“We will do a better job of stopping them from getting inside shots. We’ll get a hand in their face (on outside shots) and we’ll know where they’re at.”

Opposite styles featured in second game of twinbill
The Portales boys (5-8) have quite a task ahead of them.

The Rams have not scored more than 60 in any game this season, while the Wildcats (14-2) are averaging 67.8 points per contest.

However, that 60-point performance did come in Portales’ last game, a 60-51 win Friday at Muleshoe.

“We have to shorten the game,” Portales coach Mark Gallegos said. We can’t get up and down court with Clovis as quick and as athletic as they are. “We’re just going to mix up things defensively as much as can.”

Game day
Portales (11-3)
at Clovis (13-2)

When: 6 p.m., tonight
Where: Rock Staubus Gym
Last meeting: Clovis beat Portales 57-39 Dec. 31 in the championship game of the Plateau Holiday Classic in Clovis.
Key to the game: Undersized Portales has to find a way to neutralize Clovis’ inside game.
Portales players to watch: Sophomore P Morgan Hill scored a season-high 17 points in Portales’ 65-27 rout Friday at Artesia. At 6-0, Hill is Portales’ only player over 5-9. Senior G Kassandra Richards scored 20 points in a 70-49 win at Roswell Tuesday and is the Lady Rams’ leading scorer.
Clovis players to watch: Sophomore Brittany Blackmon is averaging 18.3 points in her last four games. Sophomore PG Tori Quintana is averaging 12.5 points in two games against Portales.
Notable: Clovis is 2-0 against Portales this season, rallying to beat Portales 61-59 on Dec. 6. … Clovis junior G Roxanne Luera is out indefinitely after injuring her knee late in Saturday’s 62-24 win at Roswell Goddard. Winners of seven straight, Clovis has won its last five games by an average 37.8 points a game. … Portales has won two straight since losing to Clovis.
Quotable: “They’re guard-oriented and we’re post-oriented, so it’s kind of a battle of matchups. It’s our height against their perimeter play. Last time out, we were able to take advantage of the post play.” — Clovis coach Miles Watters.

Portales (5-8)
at Clovis (14-2)

When: 7:45 p.m., tonight
Where: Rock Staubus Gym
Last meeting: Clovis beat Portales 63-52 in January, 2003.
Key to the game: Keeping the score in the 50s is Portales’ only hope.
Portales players to watch: Junior PG Chris Carter is Portales leading scorer. Junior G Chris Kirchner is the team’s top 3-point threat.
Clovis players to watch: Junior F Dominique Easterlin is averaging 22 points in his last two games. Senior P Mario Caswell is contributing 10 points a game off the bench and at 6-5 will be a load for the smaller Rams’ to handle.
Notable: Portales has won two of its last three games. … Friday’s 60-51 win at Muleshoe is the most points Portales has allowed in a win. … Clovis had its seven-game winning streak snapped Friday in a 72-71 double-overtime loss at Lubbock Coronado. The Wildcats, ranked sixth in Class 5A in last week’s Albuquerque Journal Coaches’ poll, are averaging 67.8 points a game. … Portales is 1-8 when the opposition has scored at 50 or more points.
Quotable: “Everybody I’ve talked to feels like they’ve played better each week, so I think it’s a little deceptive.” — Clovis coach J.D. Isler on Portales’ 5-8 record.