By Dave Wagner: CNJ sports writer
The Clovis and Portales girls basketball teams have enjoyed plenty of success over recent seasons.
Portales has reached the Class 3A state championship game in each of the last six campaigns, winning four times, while the Lady Wildcats were Class 5A state titlists in 2005 and have won 67 of their last 70 games dating to the end of the 2003-04 season.
This year, both are replacing key players but expect to be factors again in their respective classes.
The Lady Rams (1-0) host Clovis (2-0) at 7:30 p.m. tonight in the first of possibly four meetings this season. Portales returns the game at Rock Staubus Gym on Jan. 16, and is also a participant in the Lady Cats’ Plateau Classic Dec. 28-30.
In addition, both teams play in a tournament at Rio Rancho next week.
Even though Portales graduated mainstays Megan Kabrick and Morgan Hill from last year’s team, CHS girls coach Miles Watters expects a formidable challenge for his squad.
“They still do the same things,” he said. “They’re going to play a good pressure man (defense) or a good 1-3-1 zone.
“They’re missing some good players, but they’ve got a lot of good kids coming back.”
Portales opened its season on Nov. 21 with a 47-41 victory at Carlsbad, while Clovis has beaten both Moriarty (53-49) and Roswell Goddard (58-39) on the road so far.
Veteran PHS coach Brenda Gomez said her squad, led by junior post Bethany Self and senior guard Briana Hernandez, is still trying to hit its stride. They are also awaiting the return of sophomore guard Tara Johnson, who is recovering from a torn ACL sustained during the summer.
“We played (Clovis) quite a bit this summer,” Gomez said, “It’s going to be a while before we’re really in good basketball form, but I think we’ll be able to compete with them.”
The Lady Cats graduated three of the top 10 scorers in the programs history in Brittany Blackmon, Aimee Hilburn and Tori Quintana. Gomez said she’s glad her team won’t have to deal with them anymore.
“It’ll be a nice change,” she said. “But I know the kids he has definitely will play to their potential.”
Senior guard Tori Northcutt has given the Lady Cats a big lift to this point, scoring 39 points in the first two games. Her 3-pointer broke a tie in the final two minutes at Moriarty.
Watters said the control of the boards may determine tonight’s outcome.
“We haven’t done a very good job of rebounding, and they always do a good job on the boards,” he said. “It may come down to who does well on the boards.”