Lady Cats coast into semifinals

By Eric Butler: CNJ correspondent

RIO RANCHO — Since Mayfield replaced Santa Fe in the field, the Mel Otero Invitational has been one of the toughest fields — save the postseason.

But first-round games of eight-team tourneys, even difficult ones, can present some blowouts.

Clovis delivered one such lopsided victory when the Wildcats demolished Del Norte 73-21 Thursday in the first game of the early-season tournament.

Whether it was the ‘Cats starters or the first group of reserves, Clovis (4-0) forced turnover after turnover from the winless Knights in rolling to a 48-10 halftime advantage. At that point, due to the 35-point mercy rule, a running clock accompanied play in the third and fourth quarters.

Del Norte (0-6) was led by Amber Tracy’s eight points and six more from Danielle Yonnie.

“I was really pleased that we were focused and played clean basketball. We weren’t sloppy and some of our younger kids got to play,” Clovis coach Miles Watters said. “I thought they stepped up, played good defense and shared the ball real well.”

Up 25-6, Clovis stretched that lead with a 16-0 run — almost all with reserves on the floor. Brittany Blackmon led the ‘Cats with 22 points while Tori Northcutt added 14. Jasmine McDonald also added nine points to go along with six each from Aimee Hilburn and Brittany Johnson.

Clovis will play Highland, which edged Portales 55-54 in the day’s second game.

Also in the tournament field is Mayfield, which Clovis has played in the 5A title game in each of the last two years, and host Rio Rancho — another perennial 5A playoff squad.

“We’ve been playing our top five and spot playing a couple of others,” Watters said. “Jasmine McDonald got into the post, grabbed some rebounds and did some different things and I thought Brittany Johnson, I don’t know what her stats were, but she played hard and banged in there.

“With six seconds left, she takes the ball, gets it down and makes a great pass so we could score.”

Watters especially cited the play of senior Jessica Russell, who he thought was as aggressive as she has been all season.

“It was pretty easy, but it was fun. I think we did pretty good — actually, we stayed pretty focused,” said Russell, who had five points. “We’ve already played Portales and we’re going to watch Mayfield. I think everybody else is going to be pretty tough.”