Clovis junior Vanessa O’Neal scores in the first half of Tuesday’s game against La Cueva. (CNJ staff photo: Rick White)
By John Eisel: CNJ sports writer
Clovis relentlessly pestered, frustrated and ran by the bigger La Cueva Lady Bears, which led to turnovers, easy points and a 66-30 the Lady Wildcats win in the second round of the Plateau Holiday Classic on Tuesday at Rock Staubus Gym.
The win earns Clovis (12-0) a rematch with Rio Rancho (10-2) in tonight’s championship game. Clovis beat the Lady Rams 44-35 in the title game of Rio Rancho’s tournament three weeks ago.
“Every possession we got after them and never let up,” Clovis coach Miles Watters said. “It was just a super, super effort.
“We knew we could not let them get comfortable in their halfcourt game because they’re so big and physical.”
The Lady Bears (4-4) have five players on the roster 6-foot or taller.
But Clovis took advantage of its quickness and depth to force 28 La Cueva turnovers, including 19 steals, while limiting the Bears to 31 percent shooting (9 of 29).
Watters said freshman Emily Bunton and junior Vanessa O’Neal had their best games of the year.
Bunton, a 5-10 guard, scored 13 points, pulled down five rebounds had three steals. She also ended the game with a block along the baseline as time expired.
“I stepped up my game,” Bunton said.
O’Neal, a 5-6 forward, added eight points, three steals and three rebounds.
“Those two turned up the defensive heat in the second quarter,” Watters said.
Clovis opened the second quarter with a 15-2 run and led by 16 at halftime. La Cueva never got closer than 14 points.
Bunton said Watters preached to the team about blocking out before the game and it paid off as Clovis outrebounded La Cueva 25-16.
“I don’t think they got an offensive board tonight,” Watters said of La Cueva.
Brittany Blackmon led Clovis with 15 points while Aimee Hilburn added 11 points and a team-leading four steals.
“In the second half we got into a running game and we didn’t want to do that,” La Cueva coach Greg Berger said.
“I think we’re a better team than what we showed tonight. It’s like drops of water in a bucket. It’s a bunch of little things we need to fix.”
Senior post Briana Paxton led the Lady Bears with nine points.
On the first play of the fourth quarter, with Clovis up 53-26, Hilburn stole the ball and passed it to Tori Quintana at midcourt. She quickly passed to Roxanne Luera, who sent it to Blackmon, who missed a layup. However, nobody from La Cueva was back on defense and Blackmon grabbed her own miss and scored.
“I looked up one time and saw barely three people walking down court,” Watters said of La Cueva.