ALBUQUERQUE — The Clovis Lady Wildcats built a big lead with their leading scorer on the bench, then survived a spirited fourth-quarter comeback and held off Sandia 59-52 on Friday in the District 4-5A opener for both teams.
Clovis built its lead to 16 in the third quarter before the Matadors came roaring back. Sandia drew as close as 50-44 with a little more than three minutes left, but the top-ranked Lady Wildcats (19-0, 1-0 district) spread their offense and hit enough free throws down the stretch to hold on.
After getting in foul trouble in the first half, junior post Brittany Blackmon scored 16 of her game-high 21 points in the second half. Aimee Hilburn added 12 points for the Lady Wildcats and Clovis and Tori Northcutt finished with 10.
Angela Dennison and Kendra Coveal scored 13 and 12 points respectively for Sandia, which was playing its first home game of the season after water destroyed the school’s gym floor in October.
“They got a little momentum going and they had more energy than us,” Clovis coach Miles Watters said. “It was an ugly win, but I’d rather have an ugly win than a moral victory.”
Clovis broke the game in the second quarter with Blackmon on the bench with two fouls.
After Martina Holloway’s 3-pointer put Sandia up 14-13 early in the second quarter, Clovis turned up the defensive pressure, forcing five straight turnovers in an 11-0 run.
“We’ve been fortunate every time Brittany or Aimee (Hilburn) have gotten in foul trouble, somebody steps up to pick up the scoring load,” Watters said.
The Lady Cats were up 28-18 at halftime and led by as many as 16 before the Lady Matadors (13-3, 0-1) rallied in the fourth quarter. After only seven turnovers through three quarters, Clovis committed nine in the fourth quarter against the Matadors’ full-court pressure.
“We’re a little disappointed that we let that (16-point) lead slip away,” Watters said. “We let it bend, but it didn’t break.”