Clovis High’s girls shook off their previous outing, an eight-point loss to Carlsbad in last week’s District 4-5A tournament. Now they’re ready for a third crack at district champion Hobbs.
Junior post Paige Gardner scored 19 points and added seven rebounds and six assists Friday night as the seventh-seeded Lady Wildcats overwhelmed Volcano Vista 70-46 in a Class 5A first-round girls state tournament clash at Rock Staubus Gym.
“I think we came out pretty fired up for this game,” CHS coach Jeff Reed said. “She stayed after our shootaround today, and shot on her own.
“She played a heck of a game. We need her to do that every game.”
Clovis (19-9) now heads for Albuquerque and a 9:45 p.m. showdown on Tuesday at The Pit with second-seeded Hobbs (21-7), which crushed Highland 78-28 on Friday night and beat the Lady Cats twice in district play by a total of three points.
“I think the girls are happy to get another chance,” Reed said. “Our girls are going to be pumped, their girls are going to be pumped. It’s going to be a heck of a game.”
The Lady Cats wasted little time dispatching the youthful Lady Hawks (17-10), who started a pair of freshmen. Clovis’ pressure forced 31 turnovers, including seven in a first quarter when ended with the Lady Cats ahead 20-8.
“We just made some crucial turnovers at the beginning,” Lady Hawks coach Lisa Villareal said. “That allowed Clovis to go to the basket, and that’s what they do best.”
With the Lady Cats’ other scoring leaders, senior Ashlee Pierson and junior Kirsti Shough, struggling early, Gardner picked up the slack with 15 first-half points. She finished 8-of-12 from the field, and chipped in a handful of steals that led to transition buckets.
“I just wanted to come out and play good so we could get to Albuquerque,” Gardner said. “Every shot I had seemed to go in. I had a good first half.”
The Lady Hawks chopped a 20-point deficit midway through the second quarter to 36-24 at halftime, but their top two players, junior guard Emma Fenske and junior post Schylar Malone, each had three fouls by then. When play resumed, they went more than three minutes without scoring as the lead grew to 19.
“We tried to get their two best players in foul trouble,” Gardner said. “We (tried) to attack the basket.”
Fenske was the only Volcano Vista player in double figures with 17 points.
Clovis struggled from 3-point distance, but still shot 49 percent for the game (27-of-55). Pierson ended up with 13 points, while junior guard Latasha Moon came off the bench to go 4-for-4 from the field and tally a personal-best 12 points.
Gardner said the Lady Cats are ready to face Hobbs again.
“I anticipate a fast-paced game with lots of pressure (defense),” she said. “They’re going to be all over us, so we’ll have to handle the ball against their pressure.”