Clovis junior guard Tori Quintana drives around a Sandia defender during last week’s game at Rock Staubus Gym. (CNJ staff: Eric Kluth)
By John Eisel: CNJ sports writer
Forget the first 26 games. For undefeated Clovis, the real season begins at 7:30 p.m. Saturday when the Lady Wildcats host the District 4-5A tournament championship game at Rock Staubus Gym.
“Everybody keeps saying, ‘Hey, you’ve had a great season,’” Clovis coach Miles Watters said. “Really, our season’s just started.”
The Lady Wildcats will face Sandia, which beat Cibola 64-45 on Thursday to advance to the title game.
“All the stuff leading up to this is just preseason to us,” Clovis junior post Aimee Hilburn said. “What we’re going into now is basically what we’ve waited for. Everything we’ve worked for is coming now.”
Clovis already earned a bid to the state tournament by virtue of winning the regular-season district title.
With the state tournament now seeding qualified teams based on merit instead of pre-determined matchups based on district and placings, Clovis is still battling for a top seed.
The Lady Cats and unbeaten defending state champion Mayfield have been flipping back and fourth atop the Albuquerque Journal Class 5A coaches’ poll, with the Trojans No. 1 this week.
However Watters said there’s little difference in being the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds at state because the prospective third and fourth-seeded teams, Rio Rancho and Sandia, are so similar in quality.
“I’d say Sandia and Rio Rancho are probably a toss-up,” Watters said.
Hilburn said staying undefeated is important because of the mental edge over opponents.
“If we lose that game (Saturday), then teams come in there and they’re all, “Oh, they lost and we can beat them,” she said.
But Clovis expects another challenging game from Sandia.
“They’re probably one of the toughest team’s we’ve played,” said Hilburn, who led Clovis with 22 points in last week’s district-clinching 63-52 win over the Matadors.
Sandia has quality three scorers in forward Kendra Coveal, point guard Martina Holloway and guard Angela Dennison. Dennison had a game-high 26 points against Clovis.
“They want to run and they’re just hustlers,” HIlburn said. “They’re quick players. They know what they’re doing and they go out and play every time.”
7:30 p.m. Saturday
Sandia (20-5) at Clovis (26-0)
Last game: Clovis beat Sandia 63-52 on Saturday. Sandia beat Cibola 64-45 on Thursday.
Last meeting: Clovis beat Sandia 63-52 on Saturday.
Sandia players to watch: Kendra Coveal, F, 5-10, So.; Martina Holloway, PG, 5-4, Jr.; Angela Dennison, G, 5-9, Jr.
Notable: Clovis coach Miles Watters said about half the roster have come down with cold or flu-like symptoms and that it may affect the team.
Quotable: “I wish we had a game tonight. It’s been a long week already.” — Watters on Thursday.
By the numbers: The 18-point total margin of victory in Clovis’ two district games against Sandia is the same as the lowest margin of victory Clovis had in a game against the other three district teams.