Lady Wildcats tested by Portales

Ebony Bunton of Clovis tries to regain a loose ball as Portales post Morgan HIll tries to cut off the angle to the basket in the first quarter of Friday’s game. Freedom Newspapers: Kevin Wilson

By Dave Wagner: Freedom Newspaper

PORTALES — Never underestimate the importance of emotion in a rivalry.

In their by far their toughest test date, the Clovis Lady Wildcats used their deep and balance to fight off Portales down the stretch for a 58-47 victory Friday night at the PHS gym.

Junior post Brittany Blackmon scored 17 points and grabbed 10 rebounds and junior forward Aimee Hilburn added 15 points for Clovis (3-0), which won its first two games by an average of 42 points.

“They’re a tough team, inside and outside,” PHS coach Brenda Gomez said. “They have so much speed, athletic ability and ballhandling, it’s hard to go man-to-man against them.”

Meantime, the struggling Lady Rams (0-3) didn’t back down and made a strong push late, cutting a 17-point, second-quarter deficit to five with 3 1/2 minutes left in probably their best outing to date.

Gomez said her team played far better than it had in a 55-35 loss Tuesday night at Muleshoe, Texas, in which the teams were tied after three quarters.

“Wayne (Moore, former Eastern New Mexico University women’s basketball coach) said we played like sissies Tuesday night,” Gomez said. “I think (her players) took the challenge and decided they didn’t want to look like sissies.
“We’re definitely not content to lose, but it was nice to be able to play that well.”

Junior Megan Kabrick paced the Lady Rams with a season-best 13 points.

“Portales always steps up and plays well,” Clovis coach Miles Watters said. “They’ve got great presence on the inside, and they hit some 3s when they needed to.”

The Lady Rams stayed with Clovis most of the first quarter, but the Lady Cats went in front for good 15-12 on a 3-pointer by senior Roxanne Luera with 2:35 left in the period and stretched their lead to 36-19 with a 13-0 run that included six points from Blackmon and five from Hilburn.

“It’s tough coming over here and playing,” said Hilburn, who finished 6 of 10 from the field. “They always have a good crowd and they play us tough.

“Actually, it blew me away because I didn’t think they were going to handle us very well. But instead, we didn’t handle them very well.”

Clovis hit six 3-pointers in the first half in building a 39-26 lead, but went just 6 of 25 from the field the rest of the way.

Finally, the Lady Rams used a 7-0 run capped by junior Megan Kabrick’s 10-foot baseline shot to pull to 49-44 with 3:32 to go.

“It just seemed like we couldn’t get anything to go our way in that stretch,” Watters said. “We made some silly fouls.
“But it was a good game to learn from. If we take our mistakes and learn from them, we’ll be OK.”

On the next trip down, Hilburn popped open on the left baseline and drained a 10-footer. Blackmon followed by forcing a steal that ended in a 3-pointer by freshman Ebony Bunton, which pretty much ended Portales’ hopes.

Junior guard Tori Quintana hit all three of her 3-point attempts in the first quarter for the Lady Cats, while Luera went 3 for 7 and Bunton went 2 for 4 from long range.

Quintana had six of the team’s 16 assists, and Luera collected four.

Portales outrebounded the Lady Cats 26-25, led by 6-foot-1 junior Morgan Hill with nine and Kabrick with six, but the Lady Rams sank just 9-of-18 free throws and were guilty of 24 turnovers.