Clovis girls coach Miles Watters shouts instructions to his team during Friday’s Plateau Holiday Classic semifinal game against Alamogordo at Rock Staubus Gym. (CNJ staff photo: Andy DeLisle)
The Clovis High girls relied on defense Friday night to snap out of a sluggish start.
Trailing for much of the first half, the Lady Wildcats forced turnovers on seven of Alamogordo’s first eight possessions in the third quarter, fueling a 9-0 run that sent them to a 55-43 victory over the Lady Tigers and into today’s Plateau Holiday Classic championship game.
Junior guard Ebony Bunton scored 20 points and added eight rebounds and six assists for the Lady Cats (7-3), who gave Miles Watters his 500th career win as a high school girls coach. He was honored with a plaque and a basketball signed by team members in a brief postgame ceremony.
Junior post Jasmine McDonald shot 6-of-9 from the field, adding 13 points and seven rebounds for Clovis.
The Lady Tigers (7-5) led for most of the first 1 1/2 quarters, but Bunton’s 3-pointer with 3:43 left until halftime put CHS in front for good 17-14.
Sophomore guard Mariah Sena kick-started the second-half run with a steal and layup, and by the time it ended Clovis was well in command with a 31-16 cushion.
“We were kind of slow in the beginning,” said Bunton, who went 7-for-14 from the field and 4-of-5 from the free throw line. “We just decided to step it up on defense in the second half.”
The Lady Cats extended their man-to-man defense into the backcourt after halftime and wrecked havoc with Alamo, which committed 19 of its 31 turnovers in the second half.
“I don’t know why we were so slow-footed in the first half,” Watters said. “In the second half, our defensive pressure kind of ignited us and got us going.
“We’re still young and inexperienced, but I think we’re making strides. I think we’ll make some big strides before it’s over.”
Ashley Jelley, a 5-foot-4 junior guard who gave Alamo an early 6-3 lead with a 3-pointer, was the Lady Tigers’ lone double-figure scorer with 13 points.
Clovis, getting better shots in part because of the turnovers, converted 13-of-21 shots in the second half after shooting 29 percent from the floor in the opening two stanzas.
In particular, the Lady Cats were able to find the lanky McDonald for some high-percentage shots near the basket.
“Jasmine really gave us a good post presence,” Watters said. “She’s just getting better and better every game.”
Tonight’s title clash is likely to be a contrast in styles with La Cueva, a 33-30 winner over Eldorado, preferring a slower pace. Clovis is seeking its fourth title in the four-year-old event.
“We just have to pressure their guards,” said Bunton, who had a career-best 25 points earlier this season against Portales. “On our end, we’ll have to handle the ball good because they play good defense.”
Plateau Holiday Classic
Gadsden 48, Dexter 29
Portales 31, Gallup 29
La Cueva 33, Eldorado 30
Clovis 55, Alamogordo 43
Dexter vs. Gallup, noon (gym 2)
Gadsden vs. Portales, 9:30 a.m.
Eldorado vs. Alamogordo, 2:30 p.m.
La Cueva vs. Clovis, 6 p.m.