Cats’ coach uphappy with No. 9 seed

Senior Devin Sweet and his Clovis High teammates, seeded ninth in the Class 5A boys state playoffs, travel to Albuquerque to play Valley in a regional game on Friday. (CNJ staff photo: Eric Kluth)

By Dave Wagner: CNJ sports writer

Clovis High girls basketball coach Miles Watters isn’t sure his defending Class 5A state champion Lady Wildcats should be seeded No. 1 in the upcoming regional and state playoffs.

On the other hand, CHS boys coach J.D. Isler is disappointed his squad will have to travel for a regional game — the Wildcats were seeded ninth in the 16-team field, and play at No. 8 Valley in Albuquerque in a 7 p.m. contest on Friday.

Isler, whose team lost at home to Hobbs 66-59 on Saturday in the District 4-5A tournament championship game, noted that most of the people on the seeding committee are from the Albuquerque area. While the Cats (16-9) play a number of games against rugged Texas competition, they play few against teams that far west.

“I think we’re at a disadvantage (in the seeding process),” Isler said Monday. “None of the coaches up there see us. I’m not very happy with the seed.”

Valley (18-8) finished second in District 2-5A, and lost to Sandia 47-44 at home on Thursday in a district tourney semifinal matchup. The Vikings have played a slew of close games — including a 10-point overtime loss to Rio Grande, they are still 8-3 in games decided by three points or less.

The Cats haven’t played Valley since losing to the Vikings in a state tournament quarterfinal game in 2000.

Isler said that despite having to travel, the race for the title is still wide open.

“Of course, it’s always a little advantage to play at home,” he said. “But we’ve played in tough environments this season. I don’t think this’ll be anything we can’t handle.

“I don’t see anybody just head and shoulders above anybody else. You’ve just got to play well every night; if you do, you’ve got a chance.”

Meantime, the top-ranked Lady Cats (25-2) appear primed for another title run. They host 16th seed Santa Fe High (8-19) in a 6 p.m. tipoff on Friday at Rock Staubus Gym.

Second-seeded Mayfield (20-4) and third-seeded Sandia (25-2) appear to be the Lady Cats’ prime challengers for the title, but if Clovis meets either one it won’t be until the finals.

Mayfield beat the Lady Cats in the 2004 title game, while Clovis won a battle of unbeatens against the Lady Trojans in last year’s final.

“I guess we’ve played well enough to be the No. 1 seed, but I know the last couple of years the No. 1 seed hasn’t been the state champ,” Watters said. “(How well they do) depends on how well the kids can handle it.”

Meantime, he admits his team has a target on its back entering the fray as the favorite.

“We have to handle that,” Watters said. “Last year, they (Lady Cats) were the underdogs. (Now) people are expecting things.”

He said a key is keeping key players like senior forward Aimee Hilburn and senior post Brittany Blackmon out of foul trouble.

“I really feel like we have to have Brittany and Aimee on the floor,” Watters said. “They’re tough matchups for any team.”