Lady Eagles striving to build up program

In her fifth year on the varsity, Clovis Christian senior guard Sidnee Pool hopes she has played a part in building some stability in the girls basketball program. (CNJ staff photo: Andy DeLisle)

By Greg Price: CNJ sports writer

Clovis Christian senior guard Sidnee Pool remembers when the Lady Eagles faced seemingly endless losing streaks and the stands were all but empty.

Pool started her CCS basketball career as an eighth-grader, has helped lead the Lady Eagles from perennial also-rans to their first berth in the New Mexico Class 1A state playoffs.

The Lady Eagles (18-10) play at defending 1A state champion Cimarron (17-5) at 6 p.m. today in the first round of the 16-team tournament.

“We’re really excited, and I think that we’ve improved a lot from last year’s team,” Pool said. “I hated when nobody came to our games and nobody cared, and now we’re something.”

It’s the first postseason berth in the program’s nine-year history. Since becoming a full-fledged New Mexico Activities Association member in 2004, the Lady Eagles had reached the District 4-1A tournament semifinals twice before breaking through to the title game this year.

Grady beat CCS in the final 45-43.

Clovis Christian coach Max Kralicek, 67, said the biggest challenge he faced when her took over in 2003 was his team’s lack of basketball knowledge.

“The girls never had anybody teach them basketball,” said Kralicek, in his 37th season coaching. “Or they didn’t understand fundamentals, or they didn’t understand how to run an offense or a defense. We were getting beat by 60, 70 points a game.”

Despite attaining its first playoff spot, Kralicek said he doesn’t want the team to be satisfied.

“Even being in the (round of 16) is a big step for them,” Kralicek said. “We’ve been trying to work on having school pride, and a tradition of winning. And I think that these girls are building that for us.”

Like their coach, the players don’t want to be one-hit wonders.

“It feels really good this year, but it feels like we should be doing this every year,” freshman guard Jocelyn Swann said. “We want to keep doing this.”

Area girls prep capsules
All games 6 p.m. today
Tularosa (15-9) at Texico (23-4)
Class 2A
Texico coach:
Keith Durham (2nd year).
Last time to state: 2006, lost to Hope Christian in semifinals.
Leading scorers: Junior G Faith Martin (13 ppg), junior G Bryn Mayfield (10 ppg).
Of note: District 6-2A champion Texico has won 14 in a row and 17 of its last 18. … The Lady Wolverines were Class 2A state champions from 2000-02. … Tularosa lost at home to Lordsburg 47-42 on Saturday in the District 5-2A tournament championship game. … Prior to Saturday’s loss, the Lady Wildcats had won eight of their last 10. … Durham said Tularosa has good outside scoring threats in senior Gs Stephanie Guzman and Ruth Gomez.
Quotable: “When you get to this point in the year, if you play the way you’re supposed to you give yourself a chance to win. Whoever puts four good games together is probably going to win it, but right now we’re totally focused on Tularosa.” — Durham.

Temple Baptist (14-9) at Fort Sumner (17-8)
Class 1A
Fort Sumner coach:
Joel Wood (1st year)
Last time to state: 2005, beat Des Moines in the finals, ending the Lady Demons’ three-year title run.
Leading scorers: Senior P Alex Owens (7.4 ppg), senior G Kaylynn Johnson (6.4 ppg), sophomore P Racheal Chavez (6.3). The Vixens average 39.6 points per game, but allow just 33.
Of note: Temple Baptist lost to Tohajiillee 52-39 in the District 2-1A finals. … Wood said the Roadrunners’ top players are 5-7 senior F Janae Greving and 5-9 junior F Hillary Baker. … Fort Sumner upended District 3-1A favorite Elida twice this season, including 60-58 in overtime at Elida in last week’s tournament finals. … The Vixens’ last four games have been decided by a total of 13 points — a double-overtime loss (34-33) at Melrose, a three-point triumph over Floyd, a seven-point victory at Melrose and the OT win at Elida.
Quotable: “My girls are used to pressure situations. I think that’s a big plus for us.” — Wood.

Des Moines (15-9) at Grady (14-10)
Class 1A
Alicia Rush (9th year)
Last time to state: 2005, lost to Fort Sumner in semifinals.
Leading scorers: Junior G Katarina Grau (14 ppg), senior G Jennifer Franklin (12 ppg).
Of note: Des Moines won three consecutive 1A titles from 2002-04. The Lady Demons lost to Elida 39-38 in the state quarterfinals last year … Grady has played Des Moines regularly in recent years, but hasn’t beaten the Lady Demons since 1998-99, Rush’s first season. … The Lady Bronchos are making their seventh trip to state under Rush. They finished second in 2004, losing to Des Moines in the finals … The Lady Demons lost at Cimarron 60-59 in Saturday’s District 1-1A finals, a week after losing the regular-season finale 41-40 on the same court. … The Lady Bronchos were denied a perfect District 4-1A regular-season run in a 48-43 loss at Clovis Christian on Feb. 16, but edged the Lady Eagles 45-43 last Friday for the district tournament title.
Quotable: “We’re kind of a Cinderella story; we were picked fourth in our district to start the season. I believe we can beat (Des Moines), but we’re going to have to play our best game.” — Rush.

— Compiled by Dave Wagner