By Dave Wagner
CNJ SPORTS WRITER
This is the part of the season the Clovis High’s girls have been waiting for all year.
The top-seeded defending Class 5A girls state champions open their bid for a repeat with a 7 p.m. round-of-16 game against Onate (10-19) at Rock Staubus Gym.
“I’m ready to go,” coach Jeff Reed said Thursday. “It’s been a while since we played much, but now it’ll be frantic with (possibly) four games in a week.”
The Lady Wildcats (27-0), winners of 33 consecutive games dating to last season and 38 in a row at The Rock going back to a 2011 District 4-5A tournament loss to Carlsbad, don’t figure to have too much trouble with the 16th-seeded Lady Knights (10-19), whom they trounced 61-24 in the Mel Otero Invite at Rio Rancho in mid-December.
“I’m kind of anxious,” senior guard-forward Carrie Sharp said. “It’s kind of exciting for us to have a chance at another state championship.”
Presuming Clovis gets past Onate, it could face its two district rivals, Carlsbad and Hobbs, in the quarterfinal and semifinal rounds, respectively, next week at Rio Rancho’s Santa Ana Star Center.
Junior guard Nichele Hyman, who suffered a broken nose in January at Alamogordo, returned to the starting lineup for the first time since then in Saturday’s 62-43 District 4-5A tournament championship win over Hobbs. Reed said the team has spent a lot of its time working her back into the mix over the last couple of weeks.
“It’s been a good week of practice,” Reed said. “I’ve been pleased with the focus and motivation. It’s tournament time, and time to try to defend our title.”
Onate’s roster includes only two seniors. One of them, guard Kelsie Rosales, averages 17 points a game to account for about 40 percent of the team’s scoring.
She scored seven in the earlier meeting in December.
Reed and Sharp acknowledge that there’s some pressure that goes with being the defending champions, unbeaten and ranked No. 1. But they’re ready to take it on.
“I just want to take it one game at a time,” Sharp said. “I just hope we end it the right way. I don’t want to come this far and end our season with a bad taste in our mouths.”
Reed said the Lady Cats have to pay attention to detail, especially as they get deeper in the tournament.
“We’ve just got to keep doing the things we can do, and the big stuff will take care of itself,” he said.
Onate at Clovis
When: 7 p.m. today at The Rock
What: Class 5A girls round-of-16 state tournament game
Records: Onate 10-19, Clovis 27-0
Previous meeting: The Lady Wildcats clobbered Onate 61-24 in the Mel Otero Invite at Rio Rancho in December.
Winner: Advances to 8:15 p.m. quarterfinal game on Tuesday at Rio Rancho’s Santa Ana Star Center against either ninth-seeded Carlsbad or No. 8 Valley, who play tonight in Albuquerque.
— Compiled by Dave Wagner