By Kevin Wilson
Clovis coach Miles Watters thinks that the Lady ‘Cats blowout over Portales two weeks ago, albeit a great win, was an anomaly in the normally competitive series between the neighboring schools. Portales coach Brenda Gomez is hopeful her team can prove it tonight in Clovis.
The last time Portales (11-3) was on the floor at Rock Staubus Gym Clovis (14-2) beat the Lady Rams 57-39 in the title game of the Plateau Holiday Classic.
“We played exceptionally well and Portales didn’t have a very good outing last time,” Watters said, recalling the Dec. 31 win. “I’m sure it will be a dogfight. They’ve got a great team and three of the best guards in the state.”
Clovis leads the season series 2-0 over Portales, but the first matchup was much closer — the Lady ‘Cats needed a late rally for a 61-59 win.
Two weeks ago, Portales was coming off an upset over previously undefeated Rio Rancho in the Plateau Classic semifinals, and Gomez felt the blowout that followed resulted from her team being satisfied at that point.
“There shouldn’t be any other focus since it’s just Portales and Clovis,” Gomez said. “We shouldn’t be tired, we should be prepared.”
With two games down in the series, each squad knows what the other will do — Portales will go to guards Kassandra Richards, Erika Cook and Roni Gomez, while Clovis will run the offense through the sophomore trio of Aimee Hilburn, Brittany Blackmon and Tori Quintana.
“They’re guard-oriented and we’re post-oriented, so it’s kind of a battle of matchups,” Watters said. “It’s our height against their perimeter play. Last time out, we were able to take advantage of the post.”
That’s something Gomez is hoping doesn’t happen again.
“We will do a better job of stopping them from getting inside shots. We’ll get a hand in their face (on outside shots) and we’ll know where they’re at.”
Injuries have also been a concern for both clubs lately. Guard Roxanne Luera will miss the game with a knee injury, which Watters said they’d know more about in the next few days. Portales, meanwhile, has been without sophomore post Megan Kabrick since she tore her ACL in December. Sophomore Morgan Hill has played well in Kabrick’s absence and is coming off a career-high 17-point performance at Artesia.
The Portales boys (5-8) have quite a task ahead of them. The Rams have not scored more than 60 in any game this season, while the Wildcats (14-2) are averaging 67.8 points per contest.
However, that 60-point performance did come in Portales’ last game, a 60-51 win Friday at Muleshoe. Portales is 1-3 in games following a win, and Ram coach Mark Gallegos says his team is “searching for consistency.
“We have to shorten the game,” Gallegos continued. “We can’t get up and down court with Clovis as quick and as athletic as they are. “We’re just going to mix up things defensively as much as can.”
“Everybody I’ve talked to feels like they’ve played better each week, so I think (Portales’ record is) a little deceptive,” Clovis coach J.D. Isler said. “I think it’s really a good game to have because we’re close and it’s kind of a rivalry.”
Isler said there would be no changes in the game plan for the Class 3A Rams.
“It’s pretty much the same as with everybody,” Isler said. “We put a lot of pressure on them and make it as hard as possible for them to get into their offensive sets.”
Portales junior Chris Carter knows several of the Wildcats well, having played with them on an AAU team over the summer. However, Isler doesn’t think that’s a big factor.
“They’re kind of familiar with each other, but it all gets lost in the framework of the team,” Isler said. “I don’t know how big of an advantage that is.”