By Kevin Wilson
CNJ STAFF WRITER
One squad is focused on acceleration, the other on execution.
It will be a clash of styles tonight when Class 5A Clovis makes the short trip south to face Portales as district play nears for both teams.
For the Lady Wildcats (12-4), who have won three of their last four, playing the sister city is a no-win because they’re gunning for a top seed in 5A and a loss to the Class 3A state runnersup would hurt those prospects much more than a win would help.
“Portales is tough on their home court,” said Clovis coach Jeff Reed, who is in his second season at his alma mater. “Portales is always up for us. I told the girls today we’re in a no-win situation. If Portales beats us, it’s a big deal. If we beat Portales, we’re supposed to.”
Reed is hopeful Clovis can use the press to pick up the pace. The Lady Wildcats are 7-1 when they score 60 or more points.
The Lady Rams (8-5), meanwhile, are averaging 37.3 points per game, and one of their two times hitting the half-century mark was Saturday’s 51-10 rout of overmatched Roswell Goddard.
Portales faces Goddard (0-17) again after Clovis, so the Lady Wildcats represent the last likely chance the Lady Rams have at a challenge before opening District 4-3A play next Tuesday at Ruidoso.
“We talked about this two-week stretch, which finishes up with this week,” Portales coach Clay Stout said. We had to pick up our intensity level in our practice to be ready for our district games.”
Though the teams have not faced each other, there’s no question they’ve had time to scout each other. Portales and Clovis both went to the Mel Otero Invitational in Rio Rancho, and the Rams were part of the field in both the Plateau Holiday Classic and New Mexico/Arizona Challenge, both held at Rock Staubus Gymnasium.
If Portales has any advantage or equalizer with 5A Clovis, it’s the height of posts Jenna Wagner, Gabby Garcia and Macy Mitchell. To win, Reed said the ball can’t get to them in a half-court contest.
“We’re going to have to have a lot of energy and enthusiam getting our press going and forcing their guards into turnovers,” Reed said. “Going against them in a set defense, or having their set offense play against us, plays right into their hands.”
Stout said the Lady Rams have to worry about Clovis’ athleticism, which starts with Texas Tech-bound Antiesha Brown. They’ll have to battle by being fundamentally smart.
“A lot of it is to just read defenses and make sure you’ve got floor balance,” Stout said. “Spacing is probably the biggest thing when you play people (who press). You get in trouble when you don’t have that spacing.”
Neither team has much in the way of injuries. Stout said no player had an injury that would sideline her more than a few minutes, while Reed said senior guard Amanda Romero’s sore shoulder didn’t bother her enough to stop her from scoring 16 points against Cleveland.