By Eric Butler
One loss from elimination, the Clovis Heat beat the El Paso Comets twice on Sunday to win the 17-and-under division of the state AAU girls basketball tournament at Rock Staubus Gymnasium
The 14-and-under Clovis Wildcats also snared a state AAU title on Sunday, walloping the New Mexico Magic All-Stars, 96-39, in that division’s championship game .
Both Clovis winners qualified for the national AAU tournament next month. The 17-and-under girls’ national tournament is in Florida. The 14-and-under girls’ national tournament is in Tennessee.
The Heat lost to the El Paso team 63-58 on Saturday and were forced to win three consecutive games for their crown.
After beating Las Cruces Freedom on Saturday night, they got even with the Comets on Sunday morning with a 72-62 victory.
That set up a rubber game for the title. Behind 20 points from Ashley Kidd and 18 from Monique Walker, the Heat knocked off the Comets 80-72 on Sunday afternoon.
“It was time for us to win,” said Kidd, trying to account for the difference in one day for her team. “We did a lot of driving (offensively). We opened up the lanes and we gave it to the post a lot. We just stunk it up yesterday (Saturday).”
Kidd, who played as a sophomore for Texico last year, will attend Clovis High in the fall. Also joining the main Clovis High nucleus on the Heat were Tobea Patterson and Leslie Wood from Fort Sumner and Texico’s Amber Parmer.
In the last game of the day, the Comets were in control through most of the first half. But the Heat struck quickly in the final 90 seconds before intermission, scoring nine straight points to cut the deficit to 33-32.
In the second half, the Heat opened a working margin of its own with 10 minutes to play. Holding a 49-48 lead, a Kidd basket was immediately followed by Walker’s putback of a shot attempt by Sam Romero, who had just picked off a backcourt pass by the Comets, for a five-point margin.
The El Paso squad would get no closer than that the rest of the game.
Heat coach Ted Soto appreciated the irony in how his team won the title.
“We did the same thing last year — undefeated, going into the last day, and still winded up losing the tournament,” Soto said. “We feel for them because we’ve been there.”
In the 14-and-under division, the Clovis girls swamped the Magic All-Stars behind 28 points from Talmai Aguirre, 22 from Brittany Blackmon and 14 by Aimee Hilburn.
The Wildcats’ average margin of victory was 48.3 points in their three tournament wins.
While the Clovis team was more than impressive offensively, it showed itself equally adept on defense — harassing the Magic guards into numerous turnovers.
“The press is what gets us going. If we don’t come out in the press, we come out flat,” said Wildcats coach Regina Downing, whose team qualified for the national tournament in Tennessee next month. “That’s a big strong point for our team.”
The team finished in a three-way tie for 13th, according to Downing, at last year’s 13-and-under national tourney.
“Hopefully, we’re going all the way to the top. Coach Downing is awesome, a good coach,” said Hilburn, who will be a sophomore for Clovis High next year. “We’re going to go far this year.”