The graduation of Hobbs standout Adrianne Ross has changed the dynamics of District 4-5A.
Without a dominant player like Ross — or Clovis’ Cisti Greenwalt (1999-2001), the district girls 2004 basketball race appears more wide open than it’s been in recent years.
District coaches are predicting a three-team race, with Clovis as the slight favorite over two-time defending champion Hobbs and senior-laden Eldorado.
Carlsbad could be a spoiler while Manzano is in the rebuilding mode.
“Hobbs really relied on Ross,” said Clovis coach Miles Watters, who also gave his team a slight edge. “Hobbs could play bad as a team and she could still play good enough for them to win.
“After I saw the way she beat us I realized that she wasn’t going to let her team get beat.”
Ross has been a major contributor for No. 21 Texas Christian as a freshman.
“This year I think it’s going to take more of a team effort,” Watters said.
The district season started Tuesday with four teams in action. Clovis opens district play with home games against Manzano and Eldorado Friday and Saturday.
The district has been virtually a two-team race between Clovis and Hobbs since it was created in 2000-01. Eldorado, with nine of its 10 top players including all five starters, is expected to join the fray this season.
“Our district is one of the toughest districts, if not the toughest district, in the state,” second-year Eldorado coach Mike Houston said. “Every team is just an ankle injury away from being a pretender.”
Clovis (16-2) enters league play with the best record and a 10-game winning streak behind the play of sophomores Aimee Hilburn, Brittany Blackmon and Tori Quintana and senior Monique Walker.
“Clovis is very well coached and their size and athleticism are a concern for us,” Houston said. “If our big people don’t play well we won’t have a chance of beating them.”
Eldorado (11-2) is led by post Megan Hines (14.5 points a game) and guard Caitlyn Demerest (13.2 ppg), who her coach believes is one of the top athletes in the state.
“Her aggression on offense and defense has a lot to do with our success,” Houston said. “We feed off her intensity.”
Hobbs (13-6) returns three seniors who played major roles on last year’s state title team in posts Ty Como (13.9 ppg), Jessica Nelson (13.6 ppg) and guard Leslie Varner.
“Hobbs has three seniors and they know how to win,” Watters said. “They haven’t lost a district game in two years.”
Hobbs coach Johnny Casaus said his team is young beyond its three seniors and has been plagued by inconsistency, especially on offense.
“We just have to grow up quickly,” the former Clovis assistant coach said. “We really don’t have any leaders on our team, somebody we can turn to as a go-to player.”
Carlsbad (12-5) is off to a solid start behind the play of senior post Anne Helleburst (19.4 points, 6.8 rebounds), but the loss of point guard Katie Helleburst to a knee injury before the season started likely prevents the Cavegirls from making much noise.
“We’ve just got to maintain our mental edge, stay sharp and focused,” Watters said. “And stay hungry.”