Thrown into a starting role for the first time Tuesday night after a teammate was declared academically ineligible, Clovis High sophomore guard Niki Clayton made it pay off on Saturday.
Clayton was back on the bench when, because of an administrative error, senior guard Khira Loera was ruled eligible later in the week returned to the starting lineup. But Clayton responded with a personal-best 11 points on 5-of-10 floor shooting as the Lady Wildcats trounced Pojoaque 51-25 in the Portales Shoot-out.
The Lady Cats (9-5) struggled against the Class 3A Elkettes, but their pressure and athleticism was too much for Pojoaque (8-6) to handle.
Senior post Ashlee Pierson posted a double-double with 23 points — 18 in the second half — and 10 rebounds, while junior post Paige Gardner added 10 points — all in the first half — and eight boards.
Pierson, Gardner and Clayton combined for all but one of Clovis’ 21 field goals, shooting 20-of-32 from the floor between them.
Clayton said she learned from her experience in Tuesday’s 48-41 loss to Amarillo High.
“We’re in the middle of the season, and we need to step up — no excuses,” she said. “At first (on Tuesday), I was a little hesitant, but it made me realize I can do so much more.”
Clovis opened a 14-4 lead after one quarter, forcing the Elkettes into 13 turnovers in the period and 35 for the game.
Still, Reed didn’t think his team played that well.
“In the first half our shots weren’t falling, but we didn’t have enough discipline to get better shots,” he said. “The third quarter we executed our plays better and got better shots, and that allowed us to set up our press.”
Even when they handled the pressure, Clovis’ defense made it tough on the Elkettes, forcing them into 9-of-31 (29 percent) shooting.
“We’re trying to find (some depth),” Pojoaque coach Juan “Pep” Alvarado said. “Their pressure was pretty good, but I thought we’d be a little quicker than they were and be able to handle it.”
Reed said he thought his team played as well or better in Tuesday’s loss than they did on Saturday.
“We’re not going to be playing a 3A team in the playoffs,” he said. “We’re going to have to step it up and be more disciplined.”
Freshman Gabrielle Gonzales was Pojoaque’s top scorer with just six points. The Elkettes’ Cheyenne Cordova was taken off the court late in the game after hitting her head on a collision under the basket, but Alvarado said it was mainly for precautionary reasons and did not appear to be that serious.