Lady Cats show off depth in opener

Clovis senior Aimee Hilburn struggles past Amber Glasrud of Eldorado during the second half of Wednesday’s Plateau Holiday Classic game at Rock Staubus Gymnasium. (CNJ staff photo: Andrew Chavez)

By Dave Wagner: CNJ sports writer

It didn’t take long for Ebony Bunton and Vanessa O’Neal to make an impact.

Playing for the first time this season after becoming academically eligible, Bunton and O’Neal came off the bench to spark a 15-0 run as Clovis High’s girls rolled past Eldorado 67-30 Wednesday night in the opening round of the Plateau Holiday Classic at Rock Staubus Gym.

Both players had a steal and layup within the first minute as the two-time tourney champion Lady Wildcats (9-1) broke a 4-4 tie and quickly launched Clovis into cruise control. O’Neal finished with nine points and three rebounds, while Bunton added eight points, five assists and three boards.

They also helped harass the Eagles (4-6) into 29 turnovers. Midway through the third quarter, Eldorado was 2-of-17 from the field with 23 miscues.

“The kids played extremely hard,” CHS girls coach Miles Watters said. “I think everybody realized we’ll be able to apply more (defensive) pressure now with more depth. Ebony and Vanessa definitely provided a spark.”

Clovis will take on La Cueva (10-2), a 43-26 winner on Wednesday over Farmington, in a 6 p.m. semifinal today.

Senior post Brittany Blackmon led the Lady Cats with 20 points on 9-of-13 shooting, while senior Aimee Hilburn finished with 14 points. Senior point guard Tori Quintana had nine points on three first-half 3-pointers, and posted team highs of seven assists and four rebounds.

“Our defensive pressure just got them out of their offense, and it created some offense for us,” Watters said. “As a coach, it was fun to sit back and watch it.”

The Lady Cats started a bit slowly. Eldorado led 2-0 and 3-2 before Clovis took off for the final 11 points of the opening stanza, with four players contributing points in that run.

“I think we were a little nervous playing in front of our crowd for the first time in a while,” junior guard Tori Northcutt said. “We ran our fastbreak more than we have this year. It helped us getting some easy layups.”

The Lady Cats finished the game at 57 percent on 30-of-53, including a 12-for-16 burst in the third quarter that boosted the lead to 42 points.

Northcutt said Bunton and O’Neal made a lot of difference.

“They helped us a lot because they’re pretty quick,” she said. “Now we’re able to get a breather once in a while.”

The Lady Cats have shaken off the effects of their loss earlier this month at Levelland, Northcutt added — Clovis’ first setback since the 2004 state finals against Mayfield.

“I think it kind of helped us,” she said. “It made us realize we need to come with our best game every night.”

Senior forward Laticia Herkshan and junior guard Jessie Green both finished with seven points for Eldorado.