By Dave Wagner
CNJ sports writer
With her senior season on the horizon, Clovis High’s Kyleigh Guthals was torn over whether or not to play basketball for the defending Class 5A girls state champions.
A mainstay on the CHS volleyball team, Guthals originally decided not to play. It didn’t take her long to change her mind, though, and Guthals eventually stepped into a role she didn’t anticipate.
Guthals scored eight points and played her usual solid defense Tuesday night as the Lady Wildcats beat Carlsbad 62-36 at The Rock, improving to 23-0 for the season and 2-0 in District 4-5A play.
Junior guard Danni Williams had 21 points and senior guard Brandi Gomez 17 for the Lady Cats, who took command with a 14-0 run in the opening half and weathered a third-quarter run by the Cavegirls (18-5, 0-2).
Guthals, a reserve on last year’s squad, said while whether or not to play wasn’t an easy call, her peers had an influence.
“I kind of wanted to focus on school and going to college,” she said. “Everybody was telling me, ‘It’s only four months out of your life.’”
She watched the team’s season-opening home win over Amarillo Palo Duro, and told coach Jeff Reed she’d had a change of heart.
“I called him (after the Palo Duro game),” Guthals said. “I told him that I really wanted to come out.”
The Lady Cats went to a tournament at Gallup that weekend, but the following Monday she rejoined the squad. A key backup early, she was thrust into a starting role when junior guard Nichele Hyman went down with an injury in early January.
“I definitely had to step up,” Guthals said. “It was a big step up for me. I just have to keep working and push myself to be the (player) the team needs me to be.”
The Lady Cats turned a 10-8 game into a 16-point lead, holding Carlsbad scoreless for nearly seven minutes. The lead grew to 23 points early in the third period before the Cavegirls threatened to make it interesting with a 9-0 run, fueled by seven points from senior guard Shalie McAlister.
Gomez countered with a long 3-pointer, then drove the lane to score to make it 47-31 after three. Clovis then scored the first 10 points of the final stanza — the last six by Williams — to put it completely out of reach.
“They’re good; what can I say?” Carlsbad coach John Zumbrun said. “I thought turnovers killed us early — I thought they backed off us a little (on defense), and a lot of them were unforced.
“But against a team like that, you just can’t recover. And when you’re playing a team of that caliber, you just run out of gas.”
Reed said he thought the Lady Cats may have underestimated the Cavegirls a bit.
“I think we thought it was going to be a little easier than it was,” he said. “Teams are going to try to make it an ugly game.”
Clovis shot 48 percent for the game, including 6-of-14 from 3-point range, and converted 12-of-13 free throws. They also outrebounded the Cavegirls 26-16, led by Jones with seven.
McAlister and junior guard Shelby Welch each scored nine points to lead Carlsbad.
Clovis 62, Carlsbad 36
Carlsbad (18-5, 0-2) — Shelby Welch 4 0-0 9, Amber Hays 0 0-0 0, Hannah Johns 1 2-2 4, Alexx Zumbrun 2 0-0 5, Shalie McAlister 4 0-0 9, Clara Bay Samaniego 1 0-0 3, Rylan Gonsalez 1 0-0 2, Zuriah Leyva 0 0-0 0, Lainey Bryson 1 0-0 2, Kim Best 1 0-0 2. Totals 15-37 2-2 36.
Clovis (23-0, 2-0) — Brandi Gomez 7-12 0-0 17, Danni Williams 8-16 5-5 21, Ashley Gallagher 0-3 0-0 0, Kyleigh Guthals 3-6 0-0 8, Carrie Sharp 1-2 2-2 5, Kajlee Huysman 0-0 0-0 0, Dee Briggins 1-1 0-0 2, Shelby Jones 2-6 5-6 9, Lakeyia Wilkins 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 22-46 12-13 62.
Carlsbad 8 7 16 5 — 36
Clovis 16 18 13 15 — 62
3-pointers — Carlsbad 4-11 (McAlister, Samaniego, Welch, Zumbrun), Clovis 6-14 (Gomez 3-4, Guthals 2-3, Sharp 1-1, Williams 0-6). Rebounds — Carlsbad 16, Clovis 26 (Jones 7). Assists — Carlsbad n/a, Clovis 9 (Sharp 3). Total fouls — Carlsbad 13, Clovis 7. Fouled out — none. Junior varsity — Clovis 42, Carlsbad 22.