By Eric Butler: CNJ correspondent
RIO RANCHO — Clovis bounced back from a loss to top-ranked Sandia in the semifinals Saturday and beat Los Lunas 57-35 in the third-place game of the Mel Otero Invitational.
A big second quarter gave the Lady Wildcats (5-1) a commanding position over Los Lunas (3-5). Clovis had only a 6-5 edge with less than a minute left in the first period when Brittany Johnson converted a layup with 27 seconds remaining — a shot that was followed in short order by a 3-point bomb at the buzzer from junior Ebony Bunton to give Clovis an 11-5 lead.
Those five points kicked off a 14-2 run for Clovis that lasted deep into the second period as Los Lunas only tallied a pair of buckets in the quarter.
Freshman Antiesha Brown, although without a point before intermission, led the Wildcats with 14 points while Bunton added 13. The Tigers, paced by Kameo Pena’s 12 points, didn’t get their usual contribution from senior Clarissa Krum, who had only four points.
“T-Bird (Tori Northcutt), she just does so many things you don’t see,” Clovis coach Miles Watters said. “We put her on the other team’s best offensive player and she just basically shut her down today.
“(Krum) never got an open look on the three and she had a hard time putting it on the floor. T-Bird was just in her face the entire night.”
Bunton, who with Northcutt was named to the all-tournament team, was Clovis’ leading rebounder with 11 and frequently combined with Jasmine McDonald to frustrate the Lady Tigers’ two 6-foot posts with blocked shots.
Brown was also in line for some praise from Watters at the end of the game.
“Antiesha really played with a lot of heart and desire that second half,” he said. “She’s played a little tentative at times, but she just said, ‘Hey, I’m going to take it to the basket and see what happens.’
“We’ve got a lot of potential with a lot of these kids,” Watters added. “Hopefully, we’ll get it out of them by the end of the season.”
Although a winner on Friday over Onate, Portales played even better against a strong Aztec squad — although the Rams fell 48-38 in the fifth-place game.
Portales (2-3) received contributions from a wider array of players from the start against the Lady Tigers (4-3).
“Mainly, they were just producing more,” Portales coach Brenda Gomez said. “They weren’t waiting for someone else to do it.
The Lady Rams got scoring from reserves Sabrina Villanueva, Shyla Carthel and Kaycee Quick in the first half.
“When they did go in, they knew that if the opportunity was there to just do it,” Gomez said.
In fact, Portales’ lone all-tourney representative — Briana Hernandez — was actually one of the last Portales players to get on the scoreboard in the game. Hernandez, who finished with a team-high 13 points, didn’t tally a point until the midway mark of the third quarter when she canned a 3-pointer.
Aztec (4-3) stretched its lead to 42-25 late in the third before the Lady Rams began their comeback. At the start of the fourth quarter, Hernandez hit a trey followed by a pair of two-point field goals to make it 42-38.
Aztec’s Stephanie Oakes put back in a miss by teammate Rayla Doty with 4:05 left to go up by six points. Following a Portales timeout with 2:54 left, the Lady Rams turned the ball over and Aztec proceeded to successfully run Its offense — without taking a shot — over the next two minutes.
Portales finally committed a foul with 20 seconds left, but it was too late to make up any ground. Aztec made a shot off a missed free throw and then added a pair of free throws from Patricia Malouff, who finished with 20 points, in the waning seconds.
“We just needed some players to think basketball,” Gomez said of the non-fouling defense at the end. “We couldn’t call timeout, because we didn’t have the ball.
“We didn’t want to foul (Malouff) and we needed to know who to foul. We just had some seniors on the floor who weren’t paying any attention to what was going on.”