Clovis senior Brittany Blackmon is surrounded by three La Cueva defenders. Blackmon finished with a game-high 18 points. (Staff photo: Jesse Wolfersberger)
ALBUQUERQUE — Clovis coach Miles Watters preached to his starters the importance of staying out of early fouls trouble at the state tournament.
He’s likely not done preaching.
Surviving early foul trouble, the Lady Wildcats rode a strong second half to beat La Cueva 55-38 on Tuesday in a Class 5A state tournament at The Pit.
In the first two minutes of the game, seniors Aimee Hilburn and Brittany Blackmon picked up fouls.
“I just need to stop reaching,” Hilburn said. “But it’s hard. It’s like a cookie, you just want to grab it and eat it. It’s hard.”
Clovis struggled the rest of the half, going into the break with a slim 27-24 lead.
Blackmon went 9-of-11 from the floor to lead all scorers with 18 points. Hilburn finished with 16 for the Lady Cats (27-2).
Sophomore guard Brenna Freeze led La Cueva (21-9) with 11 points.
This was the second meeting between the teams this season, Clovis pounding La Cueva 68-40 in the first matchup on Dec. 29.
Watters said he was proud of his team for playing better after halftime.
“I think what we’re really pleased about is the second half,” Watters said. “We don’t usually give up 24 points in a half. Of course, Brittany and Aimee got into a little foul trouble. An ugly win beats the heck out of a pretty loss.”
Blackmon disrupted the Lady Bears’ inside game by tipping away entry passes and bodying up the La Cueva post players.
“I fronted the post like coach Watters teaches us,” she said. “And they didn’t throw the entry passes as high as my teamates can.”
Lady Bears coach Greg Berger said Clovis’ 5-foot-11 post was a tough matchup for his interior players.
“Blackmon is such an athlete on the inside,” Berge “And they were giving her such good passes. By all right they should have gone out of bounds, but she was up on the backboard catching them. She’s quite an athlete.”
Berger said he liked the way his team performed in the first half
“It was a nice half,” he said. “The game in the first half was exactly what we talked about. Being within three at the half, I thought we had a great opportunity. Then the third quarter we couldn’t score and they started hitting some shots.”
In the third period, the Lady Cats outscored La Cueva 13-4 to take control of the game.
After playing Clovis twice, Berger said the Lady Cats have to be the favorites to win the championship.
“They just have too many weapons,” he said. “That’s a good team. They are basically the same team that won the state title last year. I look for them to do it again. They just have too many weapons.”
Watters said the early fouls are still a concern, but he is going to take a more passive approach to correcting the problem.
“Sometimes when you work on free throws so much you start to miss ‘em,” Watters said. “because you think about them so much. We’ve talked about staying out of foul trouble so much that now it’s a big deal. One of these games we’ll be able to play through and not worry about foul trouble.”