Local teams fare well in AAU state meet

By Dave Wagner: CNJ sports writer

Several area teams qualified for national AAU girls basketball competition of the weekend in state tournaments played in Clovis, although not all of them will be able to go.

In the 10-and-under division, the Clovis Wildcats have opted instead for the Basketball Congress International tournament July 7-11 in Dallas, coach Regan Williams said. The AAU 10U nationals are scheduled for June 25-July 3 in Orlando, Fla.
“We wanted to go to the AAU national tournament, but we just couldn’t raise enough money,” Williams said, noting the shorter Dallas event will cost around three to four times less than the AAU trip.

The Lady Rams, a combination of area players, qualified for AAU nationals in July at Kingsport, Tenn. by finishing second in the 12-and-under bracket, but coach Lynn Cooper said the length of the tourney and the cost of staying for more than a week is prohibitive.

“It’s a long way out there,” he said. “It’s tough for a lot of people to take off for that long that time of year.”

The Wildcats were dominant in the 10U division, winning their five games by an average of around 20 points. One of the leaders of the team is Williams’ daughter, Danni, who earlier this year finished fourth in the national Hoop Shoot free throw contest in Massachusetts.

Williams said his squad consists of three 10-year-olds and seven nine-year-olds.

“Our team played really well,” he said of the state meet. “We’ve played in about 10 tournaments around here since March, so I thought we’d have a good chance (in the state meet).”

Meantime, the roster for the Lady Rams consists of Cooper’s twin daughters, Jaylyn and Jordan of Texico, plus several girls from Portales and one each from Farwell and Fort Sumner. They were unable to get by the Albuquerque-based New Mexico Lobos, who had already qualified for nationals by winning a super-regional earlier and beat the Lady Rams twice in close games.

One team that will go to AAU nationals is the Clovis-based 13U New Mexico Wildcats, who had little trouble running through their bracket. They travel to Overland Park, Kan. for AAU nationals July 14-22, coach Lanier McElrath said.

“The girls stepped up and only had one lapse,” he said, referring to an 11-point halftime deficit against the Portales-based New Mexico Wolfpack in Saturday’s winners bracket final before a big rally netted a 47-43 win. “There were some good teams, but all the girls contributed and that was the difference.”

McElrath said his squad has played most of its season up at the 14-and-under level.

“I don’t want to sound cocky about it, but I felt we could win it,” he said of the state meet, capped with a 52-37 victory over Team Colorado on Sunday. “These girls have been coming on all year.”

Another local team, Clovis AAU, cruised to the 16-and-under title, beating Albuquerque-based Team Force 70-59 in the finals.

Much of that squad will help make up the 2006-07 Clovis High girls varsity, which was hard-hit by graduation after last season.

“We just took our high school team,” said CHS girls coach Miles Watters, who filled in over the weekend with the team’s regular coach, Regina Downing, not available. “From where we were about two weeks ago, this group has come a long ways. But we still have a long way to go.”

Watters said Clovis AAU will pass on national AAU competition in Orlando. Instead, the squad has a full month or so of camps in the region.

“You need a lot of money to do it,” he said of the nationals. “I just don’t think it would be cost-efficient for us.”