Lady Cats begin rebuilding process

Clovis High’s Jasmine McDonald dives for a loose ball during a summer league basketball game against Friona on Tuesday at Texico. (CNJ staff photo: Tony Bullocks)

By Dave Wagner: CNJ sports writer

After three consecutive runs deep into the Class 5A state tournament, including a championship in 2005, Clovis High girls basketball coach Miles Watters knows things will be different next season.

Five seniors, including three-year starters Brittany Blackmon, Aimee Hilburn and Tori Quintana, graduated from a team which went 84-7 during that time.

The Lady Wildcats are busy using the summer season to get ready for what lies ahead, and Watters said he’s seen progress.

“It’s a big difference when (players) step up to that next level, but I’ve really been pleased so far,” Watters said. “Some of these kids have already made major strides.”

The Lady Cats are competing in a four-week summer league at Texico, and they have several camps on the horizon later this month.

Only senior guard Tori Northcutt and junior guard Ebony Bunton return as regulars from last year. Junior post Jasmine McDonald saw regular spot duty off the bench, picking the team up several times when Blackmon or Hilburn were nursing foul problems.

The 5-foot-9 Northcutt knows her role will change from the past — she’ll be asked to score a little more — but she said she’s looking forward to it.

“It’ll be fun,” she said. “There’s different personalities in this group.

“I’m going to have to be a leader and talk to the girls on the court.”

Clovis has done well on the junior varsity level in recent seasons, and will count on help from that program this year.

“As coach Watters says, we’re going to be green in some areas,” Northcutt said. “A lot of the girls will be at a new level this year, but I think they’re ready to step up and take their roles.”

Watters, who won 11 state championships at Class 2A Clayton and has gone 119-25 in his five seasons at the CHS helm, said summer competition has put the new players in stressful game situations and they’ve been able to respond.

“We’ve competed well at the defensive end,” he said. “We’ve been in situations where we’ve been behind and been able to figure out a way to claw back and win.”

The team will participate in a camp at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque this weekend, and Watters said it would give the Lady Cats a clue about some of the competition, particularly in that area.

“We’re definitely going to have to develop an inside game,” he said. “That’s big a big factor for us these last three years, and we’ve had some great passers to get the ball in there.

“The one thing is I think a lot of (5A) teams will be rebuilding (for) next year.”