Clovis’ Jessica Hohn puts up a shot during last year’s state championship game against Mayfield as a senior. (CNJ staff photo)
By Eric Butler: CNJ correspondent
Plenty of talented youth, a couple of determined seniors and a little bit of good fortune helped the Clovis girls basketball team nearly grab the biggest prize in 2004.
Falling one game short of the Class 5A title only marked the end of a season where a sophomore-dominated group asserted itself as a force to be reckoned with over the next two years.
The Lady Wildcats’ run to the state title game was selected as the ninth biggest area sports story in 2004 by the CNJ staff.
The sophomore trio of Brittany Blackmon, Aimee Hilburn and Tori Quintana and senior posts Monique Walker and Jessica Hohn fueled the drive for Clovis’ fifth state title.
Along the way Clovis set a school record with 27 wins and ended Hobbs’ two-year reign atop District 4-5A.
After losing a 46-44 double-overtime contest at Hobbs, Clovis rebounded to beat Hobbs twice in fours days — the second win in a game for the top seed in the district tournament after the teams tied for the regular-season title.
“I felt like the kids left it all on the floor and really played hard,” Clovis coach Miles Watters said after the first meeting between the two teams. “We had some good chances and, in a double-overtime, you usually get those chances. We just didn’t get it done.”
The next time the squads met was in the last regular season game of the year — this time in Clovis. There, the Wildcats won 52-36 as Blackmon, Hohn and freshman Tori Northcutt all scored in double-digits.
After the game, Clovis caught a bit of good luck.
A coin flip gave Clovis a chance to host the tiebreaker game between the two teams tied atop 4-5A. So, three days later, the Wildcats beat the Eagles 43-35 to secure the top spot in the district tournament as Blackmon and Hilburn each scored 12 points.
“They’re a good team and they’re great to play against. I like it — it’s just fun all around,” Hilburn said after the win.
Clovis went on to win in the district championship game, earning the right to host a regional game.
Quintana had to miss the regional contest with Los Lunas due to an injury, but Northcutt stepped in and played well.
Led by Walker’s 15 points and 13 from Hilburn, Clovis moved into the state final four with a 53-44 win over the Tigers.
“She (Quintana) runs all of our offense and she’s a good defensive player,” Hilburn said. “Me and T-Bird (Northcutt) knew we had to step up.”
After Clovis vanquished Gallup in the state semifinals, only Mayfield stood in the way of a championship. The Lady Wildcats led the title game 26-20 early in the third quarter, but went until the middle of the fourth period before scoring another field goal.
When Clovis finally pulled out of its scoring funk, Mayfield had seized a 38-29 lead — and control of the game en route to a 57-49 win.
“I think the thing that bothered us the most was the game starting really late,” said Clovis junior guard Melissa Roberts of the scheduled 8:45 p.m. tip-time. “It’s really hard to go through the day and prepare yourself and we all were just lazy. But they came out ready and we should have.”
Watters added: “I think composure and poise hurt us. It’s quite a three-ring circus with television and all and it’s pretty hard for these kids. We’re extremely young and I was real proud of our seniors. I thought they gave a great effort.”