ALBUQUERQUE — With Clovis High’s girls trying to hang on to an eight-point lead and the clock ticking towards two minutes left, sophomore guard Danni Williams let fly with a 3-point dagger from the right wing.
With that, the top-ranked and top-seeded Lady Wildcats all but nailed down their first Class 5A state championship in eight seasons, beating second-ranked Mayfield 62-48 on Saturday at The Pit behind 22 points, five rebounds and three assists from their young star.
“It’s very satisfying,” fifth-year CHS coach Jeff Reed said of the school’s first state title since beating Mayfield in a battle of unbeatens in 2005. “Words can’t describe it. We had a lot of girls coming back off last year’s team (which lost to eventual champion Volcano Vista in the semifinals), and they carried that experience over.
“Everybody was looking at this team to do this, and instead of backing away from it, they embraced it.”
Williams said she didn’t think of her late 3-pointer, making it 57-46, as a dagger. She was just happy it found the target.
“My calves had started cramping; I guess I was dehydrated or something,” she said. “I was just glad it went in.”
Junior guard Brandi Gomez, who had nine points, said last year’s semifinal loss was still fresh in the players’ minds.
“We just needed to pick up (this year) where we left off,” she said. “I didn’t want to feel like I did last year again. That was hard.”
Clovis (30-2) trailed only once — 6-5 late in the first quarter. The Lady Cats took the lead for good on Williams’ driving basket with 5:09 left in the second stanza and opened a 34-27 margin at halftime.
The lead reached 15 points a couple of times in the second half. The Lady Trojans (28-3) made runs, but were unable to get into real striking distance.
In the first half, Mayfield stayed as close as it did by hitting 16-of-19 free throws. The Lady Trojans went 3-of-6 in the second half, and CHS held them to 33 percent field goal shooting for the game (14-of-42), including 1-of-14 from 3-point range, while forcing 23 turnovers.
“You’ve got to have defense to win a championship,” Reed said. “Defense has been our main thing all year.”
The Lady Trojans began to get in trouble when starting guards Scottie Bayles and Audrey Oliver each went to the bench late in the half with three fouls. That forced veteran Mayfield coach George Maya to juggle his backcourt.
“They just have a great ballclub,” Maya said of the Lady Cats. “We have to do a great job of taking care of the ball to have a chance to beat them, and today we didn’t do that.”
The Lady Cats shot 51 percent (19-of-37) and had a solid night at the line for the second consecutive game, following Thursday’s 19-of-21 semifinal performance against La Cueva with a 20-of-27 effort in this one.
McCants finished with 22 points and seven rebounds for the Lady Trojans, but no one else scored more than six.
“We had our chances,” Maya said. “But every time it seemed like Clovis answered with baskets.”