Clovis’ Aimee Hilburn regains her dribble during the second half of their District 4-5A final against Sandia Saturday at Rock Staubus Gymnasium. Clovis held off Sandia 48-45. (Staff photo: Eric Kluth)
By John Eisel: CNJ sports writer
Sandia’s Melissa Hillebrand missed a 3-pointer from the top of the key with less than two seconds remaining as Clovis escaped with a 48-45 win and the District 4-5A tournament championship Saturday at Rock Staubus Gym.
Clovis had squandered away a nine-point lead going into the last quarter with seven turnovers.
“We’ve beat them when we played well and now we’ve snuck by when we played poorly,” Clovis coach Miles Watters said.
Still, the Lady Cats (27-0) are 4-5A tournament champions for the second-straight year.
“I think the girls are disappointed because they didn’t play well,” Watters said. “But this is great to finish off the way they did, to walk out district champs. They need to hold their head up and be proud of that and I’m proud of them for their effort and what they’ve done so far.”
In Hillebrand’s face on the final shot was Clovis junior post Brittany Blackmon, who led all players with 27 points, six rebounds and four blocks.
Kendra Coveal led Sandia (20-6) with 15 points.
Clovis also benefited from big runs that came from Sandia turnovers.
The Lady Cats closed off the last minute of third quarter with a 7-0 run to take a 42-33 lead.
After Blackmon scored inside, the Cats had two steals before Sandia could get the ball past the free-throw line, leading to layups for Vanessa O’Neal and Blackmon.
“We hit them with that press when Holloway went out and made a great run that probably won the game for us,” Watters said.
In the second quarter the Lady Cats were down 17-13, but went on a 13-0 run thanks to five Sandia turnovers.
Blackmon scored six points in the streak, while fellow junior post Aimee Hilburn capped off the run with two layups.
Clovis finished with 16 turnovers. Sandia had 15.
Sandia constantly double-teamed Blackmon or Hilburn down low but the Lady Cats still tried to force the ball inside at times.
“We didn’t have a lot of patience,” Blackmon said. “We tried to move our offense too fast.”
At the same time, Clovis limited Angela Dennison to only seven points after she torched Clovis for 26 in the team’s previous meeting in the regular-season finale.
“You play a team three or four times, you’re going to figure out some strengths and weaknesses,” Watters said.
Sandia and Clovis will move on to the Class 5A state tournament next week as the top two teams in each 5A district automatically qualify. The teams will be seeded today.
Despite being undefeated, Watters didn’t want to comment on whether the team should get the No. 1 seed. Defending champ Mayfield is also unbeaten.
“I’ll leave that up to the committee,” Watters said.