By Kevin Wilson: PNT Staff Writer
Although both of the respective head coaches might disagree, Friday night saw 5A Clovis as 19 points better than Class 3A Portales.
Aimee Hilburn led all scorers with 15 points and Tori Quintana had a pair of back-breaking threes early in the third quarter as the visiting Lady Cats handed Portales a 47-28 drubbing to extend their winning streak to 32 games.
Brittany Blackmon added 12 for Clovis (2-0), which jumped out to an early 10-2 lead and held Portales to 22.7 percent shooting (10-of-44) on the night.
It made defense pretty easy for the Lady Cats, who host Moriarty Tuesday.
“I didn’t plan to stay in that zone all night long,” Clovis coach Miles Watters said, “but since they weren’t scoring we stayed in it. We were trying to keep our posts from foul trouble.”
Clovis had its own shooting troubles, going 20-of-48 from the field, but runs to start each half gave Clovis more than enough of a cushion to hand Portales (2-1) its first defeat of the season.
After a bucket 11 seconds into the game by Portales’ Ashleah Richards, Clovis took over as Hilburn and Blackmon combined to outscore the host Lady Rams 12-1 over the next 7:43.
Clovis extended its lead in the third quarter when Quintana hit a pair of 3-pointers in the first minute to complete an 11-0 run that started late in the second quarter.
Quintana, who was injured later in the quarter on a 3-point attempt but returned midway through the fourth, said the shots weren’t by design.
“It just happened,” said Quintana, who added a layup in the fourth to finish with eight points. “Coach told us to run transition (offense). We caught them out of transition and I happened to be open, so I shot them.”
From that point on, Clovis’ lead hovered near the 20-point mark and Portales was left to wonder what happened.
“We didn’t play aggressively, we didn’t play intense the whole game but the last six minutes,” Portales coach Brenda Gomez said. “We have just got to play more aggressive defense, we’ve got to get up in their faces and sit on their legs so they can’t just jump out of the gym to catch (passes) and put it in the hole.”
Nobody reached double figures for Portales, which was led by Morgan Hill and Megan Kabrick with six each. Richards and Tara Johnson each added five for Portales, while Jasmine McDonald had five for Clovis.
Clovis got many of its interior points against the Portales zone by throwing high-arching passes to Blackmon or Hilburn, who would either take a short turnaround or pass the ball to a cutting forward in the key.
Quintana said that most teams usually avoid playing zone defense, but Portales is usually able to do it against Clovis and have success.
“They give us a different style that we’re not used to,” Quintana said. “It gives us a good outlook of what we can do in all areas. I hope we can play them more and hope they’re clean matches.”
Clovis and Portales could get three more chances at each other, including a January matchup at Clovis and potential meetings in a pair of tournaments, the Plateau Classic in Clovis and next week’s Mel Otero Invitational in Rio Rancho.
After Moriarty, Clovis will play in the first round of the Mel Otero. A second-round matchup with Portales could await, and Watters expects a much greater challenge.
“That wasn’t a typical Portales team,” Watters said. “They can play a lot better than that.”
Gomez certainly concurs.
“I know they had tons to do with (our poor play) — they’re very athletic, they have lots of talent — but I don’t believe they’re 20-something points better than we are. They’re not.
“If we play our best game and they play their best game, that would be a good matchup.”
Portales next plays Tuesday at Sudan, Texas.
In the junior varsity game, Portales defeated Clovis 38-34.