By Eric Butler: CNJ correspondent
RIO RANCHO — Clovis and Mayfield share a lot.
Each has won a state title recently, each are 5-0 this season, and each breezed through the first two round of the Mel Otero Invitational tournament.
But Saturday’s tournament title contest turned out to be no contest as the defending Class 5A girls basketball champs from Clovis smothered Mayfield 65-40.
The Trojans’ press, who had wrought havoc in the previous two rounds of the tourney, only offered some early problems for the Wildcats as 6-0 senior Aimee Hilburn eventually began to direct traffic with her ballhandling, helping slow the tempo of the game to one that was obviously not to Mayfield’s liking.
“Their pressure, it was good, but I thought they stepped it up more last year,” said Hilburn, who finished with 19 points. “Not like it was way easy to break, but as long as we kept the flow and didn’t make bad passes, we were able to handle it really well.”
“The last couple of times (against the Trojans) we just wanted to put the ball in her hands,” Clovis coach Miles Watters said. “She’s big, she can throw over the press, she makes good decisions.”
Mayfield jumped out to an 11-6 lead early as Madisen Spence, who finished with a team-high 15 points, canned a pair of early 3-pointers. But notably absent from the scorebook was Trojans junior Carissa McGee, who had tallied 24 the day before in a 69-37 semifinal victory over Farmington. McGee, however, was held scoreless on this night.
Clovis took the lead by scoring the last seven points of the first quarter — including four points from senior Brittany Blackmon and a 3-pointer from Tori Northcutt. Leading 18-13 midway through the second period, the Wildcats distanced themselves from the Trojans with a 9-2 run to end the quarter.
In the first three minutes of the second half, Clovis opened up a 36-19 spread as senior Tori Quintana drilled three 3-point shots. Eventually, the Cats led by as many as 31 points midway through the fourth quarter.
“I was feeling it when I hit the second and third ones, then they came out on me,” Quintana said. “Mayfield’s a really good team and they keep the pressure going. You never know when they’re going to come back, because their press is so amazing.”
Blackmon scored 28 points to lead all players while Quintana chipped in nine points via the long bombs.
Marie McGee added nine points for Mayfield, which beat Clovis in the 2004 state-title game.
The two teams will also meet in a regular-season game in Clovis next month.
“It’s going to be a really loud environment. We’ve got to go there, we’ve got to go to Sandia, and we’ve got to go to Gallup. This is what we need, especially right now,” Mayfield coach George Maya said. “Where we are right now, we’re 25 points away from Clovis and we’ve got to get better.”
Mayfield coughed up 21 in the game while Clovis committed 17 turnovers.
The Wildcats also stayed away from major foul trouble, one key ingredient to Clovis’ state title game a year ago as well.
“I think Brittany and Aimee are playing smarter this year as far as staying out of foul trouble,” Watters said. “We’re thinner at the post than anyplace. Brittany got a couple of fouls and she played a long time with those two fouls. She played smart, but still played aggressive.”