Local 11-12 squad qualifies for AAU nationals

By Dave Wagner

After winning four of six games over the weekend for third place in the girls state AAU 12-and-under basketball tournament at La Cueva High School in Albuquerque, the Clovis Sparks are hoping to take the next step — to play in national AAU competition June 26-July 2 at Kingsport, Tenn.

The Sparks qualified for the AAU nationals by beating the Gallup Blackhawks 53-47 late Saturday in their fourth game of the day, avenging a 79-73 overtime loss to the Blackhawks early Saturday. They were eliminated on Sunday by Albuquerque Attack 56-34.

The Sparks beat Albuquerque Rage 41-29 on Friday, then began their Saturday slate with the loss to Gallup. The Clovis team followed that up with wins over the Albuquerque Lady Tigers 50-37 and the Belen Rockers 38-32.

“It was great,” coach John Duval said. “The quality of teams was really something. The whole atmosphere was something I’ll remember the rest of my life.”

The next question is whether or not they can raise enough funds to make the trip to Tennessee.

“We’re going to try to go, but it’s going to take a lot of money,” said Kirstyn Turnbough, one of three Portales girls on the nine-player squad. “(Not going) would be a little disappointing, but qualifying was pretty awesome. It was pretty exciting, a lot of fun.”

Duval said the team hadn’t planned on going to Albuquerque, but after winning a tournament in Lubbock decided to give the state tourney a shot.

“We’ll have to make a decision (on nationals) in the next couple of days,” he said. “But I think for just putting the team together, we did quite well. We played with a lot of heart.”

Five of the team members are from Clovis, while one hails from Clayton.

“We just put this team together at the last minute,” said Mariah Sena, who led the Sparks in scoring in the tournament with about 24 points a game. “We’ve qualified, but I don’t know what we’re going to do.”

Sena, who will be an eighth grader at Marshall Junior High, said she enjoyed the competition.

“The tougher the teams are, the more effort I put into it,” she said. “I like the tougher competition. It’s more exciting.”