Clovis’ Brittany Blackmon is fouled as she scores two of her 17 points in the first half of Friday’s game against Sandia at Rock Staubus Gym. Clovis defeated Sandia 63-52. (Staff photo: Eric Kluth)
By Eric Butler: CNJ correspondent
A furious late rally the last time the teams met may have given Sandia some hope. But the top-ranked Clovis girls basketball team used that earlier blown double-digit lead as motivation Friday night in beating back the Matadors 63-52 at Rock Staubus Gymnasium.
Clovis (26-0, 8-0) never trailed in securing the top-seed for this week’s District 4-5A tournament and finishing unbeaten during the regular season for the second time in school history.
In the first meeting in Albuquerque, the visiting Lady Wildcats saw a 16-point bulge trimmed down to six in the final minutes.
Although Clovis again grabbed an advantage of 16 in the fourth quarter Friday night, there would not be any real moments of consternation this time around.
“After that (first) game, I think they thought they had a little edge and they thought they could actually beat us,” said Clovis junior forward Aimee Hilburn, who finished with a team-high 22 points. “Not to be rude or anything, but you definitely have to come out here and you have to prove yourself.”
Hilburn was a deadly weapon for the Lady Wildcats in the rematch. Hitting all five of her shots from the floor in the first half, as well as all four of her free throw attempts, she was a big reason Clovis took a 10-point lead late in the first half.
Brittany Blackmon was another reason. Blackmon scored the first five points for Clovis before Hilburn registered the next 10. The last six points of the first quarter, however, were from a surprise source as senior reserve Roxanne Luera came off the bench to pump in a pair of baseline 3-point shots.
“Our strategy was to back off everybody but Tori (Quintana) and make them beat us out there,” Sandia coach Susan Kubala said. “Then she (Luera) hits two and that kind of knocked us to our knees for a second.”
Sandia (19-5, 6-2) was led by the versatile Angelina Dennison, who scored from inside and out to the tune of 26 points. Martina Holloway added 12 for the Matadors.
Leading 32-23 at halftime, Clovis went up by 14 points when a Blackmon basket was followed by Quintana’s only 3-pointer of the game to start the third quarter.
A pair of Hilburn buckets at the end of the period gave the Clovis its biggest lead at 16 points. Sandia was able to cut it down to 10 late in the game, but the strategy of fouling Clovis to get the ball back was in great part thwarted by Quintana — who hit seven free throws down the stretch.
“Rox hit those 3s and Vanessa O’Neal came in and sparked us with three big offensive rebounds, so we got some points from different places that we’re not used to,” Clovis coach Miles Watters said.
Blackmon finished with 17 points and Quintana added 10.
Clovis will host the District 4-5A tournament championship Saturday night. Sandia is the second seed.
“I don’t know if we got hesitant or little sloppy, but they threw in some shots at the end that maybe shouldn’t have fallen,” Watters added. “We could have stretched it (the lead) to 20, but we let it get down to 10. But we hit our free throws and did what we had to do.”