Freedom Newspapers: Kevin Wilson
Aimee Hilburn smiles after handing a signed mini-basketball to a young fan during Sunday’s session at North Plains Mall.
By Leslie Radford
Many Lady Wildcat fans stood in line for autographs and a chance to congratulate the Class 5A girls basketball state champs at the North Plains Mall Sunday afternoon.
The first 100 fans received a purple miniature basketball to collect the team’s signatures — a souvenir 9-year-old Jessica Morrell will put in her trophy case when she gets home.
Morrell is the biggest Lady Wildcats fan around, according to her mother Charolette Deaton of Clovis.
“The first thing she asked me when we got here is if she could talk to the coach,” Deaton said. “She wanted to know if he was going to be her coach when she plays basketball in high school.”
Coach Miles Watters led the Lady Cats (30-0) to state in March at The Pit in Albuquerque.
“We are very fortunate and humbled by the opportunity this presents the girls,” Watters said. “They worked hard to get where they are.”
Volunteer Booster Vici Dendy agreed wth Watters’ sentiments.
“The girls really deserve this,” she said. “I’ve been wanting to sit down and figure the hours it takes to make a team state champs.”
Watters said the girls began practicing in October for about two hours a day, six days a week — that’s approximately 200 hours — not taking into account games or road trips, the final of which was to Albuquerque. It was there that Clovis held off upsets from Gallup (44-40 win) and Rio Rancho (42-36), then knocked off defending champion Mayfield 49-46.
Senior Melissa Roberts said she and her teammates worked overtime to get where they are.
“We put a lot of work in with the coach,” she said. “It was hard work, but it was definitely worth it.”
Roberts said the fans she had talked to were encouraging and supportive.
“They are very excited for us and can’t wait until next year,” she said. Roberts is one of four that CHS will lose to graduation, but they return a solid nucleus led by seniors-to-be Aimee Hilburn, Tori Quintana and Brittany Blackmon.
As for young Morrell, she will continue to log many hours playing various sports, namely basketball. The Lady Cats are part of that process for children like Morrell, as they mentor players through a program at Play, Inc.
Clovis Mayor David Lansford declared April 17 as Lady Wildcat Day. Watters said this is the first time the girls basketball team has had the opportunity to be honored in the community in such a way.