Clovis senior Vanessa O’Neal heads downcourt with a loose ball as La Cueva junior Marisol Romero pursues during Thursday’s semifinal game in the Plateau Holiday Classic. (CNJ staff photo: Andrew Chavez)
By Jesse Wolfersberger: CNJ staff writer
It’s not often you get outscored in the second and fourth quarter and still win the game by 28 points.
The Lady Cats overcame a tough full-court press and beat La Cueva 68-40 on Thursday to advance to the finals of the Plateau Holiday Classic.
Clovis post Brittany Blackmon scored a game-high 23 points followed by Aimee Hilburn with 16 points and eight assists for the Lady Wildcats (10-1).
After a dominating 19-4 first quarter by Clovis, La Cueva coach Greg Berger switched his defense to a press to try and get back into the game.
“I hadn’t intended on pressing them,” Berger said. “Honestly, I was a little surprised. I didn’t think the press would bother them.”
The Bears’ pressure gave the Lady Cats problems and La Cueva outscored Clovis 18-17 in the second period.
“We just panicked time and again,” Clovis coach Miles Watters said. “I thought we could play through it, but we had to stop and make a few adjustments. But, hey, that’s good because we need to see all these different types of presses.”
Berger said he had not intended on pressing Clovis because he thought they could handle it.
“Most teams I feel comfortable pressing, but it wasn’t in my gameplan (for Clovis),” Berger said. “I do like to press when I can, and I was happy with it.”
Already ahead by 14, Clovis reeled off a fantastic third quarter, outscoring the Bears 23-4 and putting the game on ice with a 33-point cushion.
In the fourth quarter, Watters emptied his bench and La Cueva (10-3) beat the Clovis reserves 14-9.
“We had a great start and a great third quarter,” Watters said. “Maybe it’s hard to play perfect basketball for 32 minutes.”
Clovis junior guard Tori Northcutt said she is confident her team has the ability to break a full-court press.
“I think we can handle the press,” Northcutt said. “Everyone out on the court can handle the ball pretty well. I think we’ll be OK.”
The Bears had no players score in double figures, but went 19-of-20 from the free throw line.
“We have to be able to score from other spots, too,” Berger said.
The La Cueva coach said the Lady Cats were just the better team on Thursday night.
“This team intimidates teams and rightly so,” Berger said. “They’re not ranked number one in the state because they’re a bad team. Sometimes at halftime when you’re down 14, that’s a bad thing.”
At Rock Staubus Gym
Moriarty 44, El Paso Ysleta 31
Farmington 66, Eldorado 61, OT
Portales 37, Gallup 36
Clovis 68, La Cueva 40
x-Ysleta vs. Eldorado, 7th place, noon
Moriarty vs. Farmington, 5th place, 9:30 a.m.
Gallup vs. La Cueva, 3rd place, 2:30 p.m.
Portales vs. Clovis, championship, 6 p.m.
x-Gym No. 2