By Dave Wagner
CNJ sports writer
The first game of the 2013-14 season looked a lot like some of Clovis High’s games during the Lady Wildcats’ Class 5A state championship run a year ago.
Amarillo Palo Duro, which pushed the Lady Cats into overtime at home in last year’s opener, graduated much of the talent from that squad. This time, CHS built a 24-point lead before the first quarter was over and cruised to a 75-28 win at Rock Staubus Gym.
Junior guard Danni Williams led four players in double figures for the Lady Cats with 25 points, while junior post Shelby Jones added 13 points and nine rebounds, senior guard Brandi Gomez scored 13 points and grabbed seven boards and junior guard Nichelle Hyman scored 11 points and notched four assists in her first varsity start.
“It was a game where we didn’t have to worry about foul trouble, so we were able to flourish,” Lady Cats coach Jeff Reed said.
Hyman, who had only brief varsity time before Tuesday, knocked down a trio of 3-pointers in the opening quarter. Clovis went 6-of-10 from beyond the arc in the stanza against the overmatched Lady Dons (0-5) off the floor.
“I felt a part of the team, like I belonged,” said Hyman, the lone new starter this season. “I just went out and played.
“Before the game, everybody was nervous, but once we got out there, it was just basketball.”
Reed thinks Hyman will mesh well with her more experienced teammates.
“She was open and she drained it,” he said of Hyman’s early 3-pointers. “Hopefully, she’ll continue to shoot like that for us.
“Nichelle fits right in (with the four returnees). I think she’ll be the x-factor, and I think she’ll be a breakout player.”
After Palo Duro’s Dajia Woodard scored to get her team within 5-2, the Lady Cats went on a 19-0 run. Then, following a Lady Dons free throw, Williams cranked in a 3-pointer in the final minute of the period and CHS led 27-5 after one.
By halftime it was 45-15, and the final 1 1/2 quarters were played with a running clock.
The Lady Cats worked on a variety of defenses during the game and force Palo Duro into 27 turnovers while committing only six of their own — just one in each of the final three quarters.
Clovis shot 48 percent from the floor, including 7-of-17 from 3-point range, and limited the Lady Dons to 8-of-31 shooting. Clovis owned a 30-24 margin on the boards.
Katiana Diaz and Ajahn Harvey had seven points each for Palo Duro.
CHS returns to action on Thursday in the Gallup Invitational, facing St. Pius in a 2:30 p.m. quarterfinal tipoff.