By Jesse Wolfersberger: CNJ staff writer
It’s not much of a surprise that tonight’s Clovis-Hobbs matchup involves a 20-win team. The surprise is that team is Hobbs.
The Lady Wildcats go on the road to face the Lady Eagles at 7:30 p.m. tonight in a game between not only the best teams in District 4-5A, but two of the best teams in the state.
Clovis’ 19-2 record is no shocker. Last season, the Lady Cats went 30-0 en route to a state title.
Hobbs’ 20-3 record is somewhat unexpected considering the Lady Eagles finished 15-13 a year ago.
“Last year we were really young,” Hobbs coach Johnny Casaus said. “We take care of the ball a lot better this year, and that’s going to be big for us against Clovis.”
Clovis coach Miles Watters expects this year’s games to be much closer than last season, when Clovis beat Hobbs twice by a combined score of 120-66.
“I’ve seen Hobbs and they definitely have a quality team,” Watters said. “If we go in there focused, ready to give a good effort, I think we’ll be in great shape.”
On Jan. 13, Hobbs erased a 16-point deficit on the road to beat Mayfield, last year’s state runnerup, 44-41. Clovis and Mayfield have traded wins in two matchups this year.
Another common opponent is Artesia. The Lady Cats trounced Artesia 61-27 last week. Meanwhile, Hobbssqueezed by the Lady Bulldogs 39-35 on Jan. 20.
“You can’t get caught up in comparing scores, because I know what (the Eagles are) capable of doing,” Watters said. “I know they’ll be sky high for us tomorrow.”
Clovis tops the Albuquerque Journal’s Class 5A poll while Hobbs is ranked fifth.
Casaus said trying to stop Clovis’ Brittany Blackmon, third in the Class 5A in scoring with 18.2 points per game and fifth in rebounding with 8.8 boards per game, while trying to defend the Lady Cats’ perimeter players is a tall order.
“We’ve got to try to slow down their post players,” Casaus said. “But we’ve also got to cover them on the outside, so you’ve got to pick you poison there.”
This will be the second straight week the Lady Cats have only a Friday night game on the schedule.
“Last week, we had a great effort on a Friday night, so we’re hoping for that same kind of deal,” Watters said. “We’ve been able to spend more time on shooting. When we were playing so many games per week, we were always working on different parts of the game, but not necessarily shooting the ball as much as we’d like to.”
The Clovis coach said Hobbs’ biggest strength is pulling down boards.
“I’ve really been impressed on how they rebound on the offensive end,” Watters said. “They may be the best team at blocking out that I’ve seen this year.”
Watters said defending 5-foot-11 post Ashley Jackson will be a priority for his team.
“She’s a strong, physical player who can really run the floor,” he said. “Also, they’ve got about four guards who can really shoot the 3-ball. So we know we’re going to have to come out and defend the guards and get a good defensive effort on the interior as well.”
Jackson pulls down 7.6 rebounds per game and ranks fourth in Class 4A with 15.6 points per game.