RIO RANCHO — Heading into the fourth quarter, it looked as though the Clovis girls basketball team was finished in Tuesday’s quarterfinals of the Class 5A state tournament at Santa Ana Star Center.
But the seventh-seeded Lady Wildcats put together a 10-0 fourth-quarter run against District 4-5A rival Hobbs to make for a dramatic finish before falling 61-55.
Senior Ashlee Pierson scored six of her game-high 27 points as part of the dramatic fourth quarter run that trimmed Hobbs’ 55-40 lead to 57-53 with 44 second remaining in regulation.
But as they had earlier in the game, the second-seeded Lady Eagles (22-7) composed themselves and overcame Clovis’ ferocious press defense to tough out the win.
“We thought if we work hard on defense the offense will come to you,” said Pierson of her team’s fourth-quarter run. “We always have a time when we want to make a run. The light bulb goes on, and we made the run.”
In the end the edge went to the Lady Eagles, who Clovis coach Jeff Reed described as “hustlin’ and scrapin’ and gettin’ after us.”
“We didn’t wake up until the last four minutes of the game and decided that we wanted to hustle and scrap a little bit,” Reed said. “I give all the credit to Hobbs. They did what they had to do today. They made their free throws.”
The helter-skelter pace made for a sloppy game at times, with the teams combining for 32 turnovers.
Reed and Pierson agreed the Lady Wildcats’ Achilles’ heel was free throw shooting. Despite benefiting from 25 fouls and two Hobbs players fouling out, Clovis (19-10) hit just 17-of-33 from the charity stripe compared with 19-of-22 for the Lady Eagles.
“If we get after it a little bit tougher the first 28 minutes of the game and make our free throws, we beat them,” Reed said. “It’s been the same story all three games (against Hobbs this season).”
“(It was just) free throws, making shots in the paint and (playing) better defense,” she said.
Junior guard Kirsti Shough added eight points for the Lady Wildcats, while junior post Paige Gardner and senior guard Khira Loera scored six and five points respectively.
Hobbs was paced by senior Shalyn Payne, who scored 21 points and had 13 rebounds.
Clovis held a 7-4 lead early, but Hobbs ended the first quarter on a 9-1 run to take a 13-8 lead into the second quarter. The Lady Eagles used an 11-3 charge to build the margin to 32-22 at halftime.
“They just made a run on us, and it was like we had our feet stuck in concrete,” Reed said. “We didn’t play good defense. We gave them easy opportunities. They didn’t have to work for what they got.”
Reed said he was proud of his team’s effort this year, especially after losing seven seniors from last season’s state semifinalist squad.
“For these three seniors, I told them in the lockerroom, ‘No one expected us to do anything this year,’” Reed said. “For us to be able to even be here was a big accomplishment. Getting 19 wins with three seniors, losing seven people off last year’s team ... I think we went further and beyond anything than people thought we could do.”