Clovis’ quickness and pressure defense caused La Cueva problems Tuesday. The Bears’ size hurt the Lady Wildcats even more.
La Cueva dominated inside and survived a rash of turnovers, particularly in the second half, for a 50-40 victory and a berth in today’s 2:45 p.m. championship game against Albuquerque rival Cibola.
The two-time defending Class 5A state champion Bears were able to hold the Lady Cats’ top scorers, senior Antiesha Brown and junior Ashlee Pierson, in relative check.
“Our game plan was to take advantage of our height and get the ball inside,” Bears coach Abbie Carlson said. “Defensively, we wanted to pack it in and not let (Brown and Pierson) get started (going to the basket).”
La Cueva (7-3), which has won five in a row since a 58-49 tournament loss at Cibola in early December, is anxious for a chance to avenge that setback.
“We didn’t play very well in that game,” Carlson said. “I think Clovis and Cibola are very similar. Both have two really good athletes you have to try to contain.”
Senior center Tyahnna Higgs and junior forward Jamie Parker each scored 10 points for the Bears.
The Lady Wildcats (7-2) got back-to-back 3-pointers from guards Amanda Romero and Katherine Cordova to cut an eight-point deficit to 29-27 midway through the third quarter. They trailed 33-32 going into the final stanza, but the Bears converted 11-of-14 free throws down the stretch to pull away.
Brown finished with 12 points before fouling out with 2:30 left, while Cordova added 11. Pierson was held to seven points.
“We just didn’t have enough discipline to win,” said Lady Cats coach Jeff Reed, whose team faces Texico for third place at 6 p.m. today. “Our defense wasn’t horrible; we held them to 50 points, but when you only score 40 you’re not going to beat anybody.
“We’ve got to be able to hit some shots from the outside. Nobody’s going to respect us if we can’t do that.”
Clovis committed just two turnovers in the second half, both in the fourth quarter, while forcing the Bears into 13 in that time and 24 for the game.
“We didn’t take advantage of the turnovers,” Reed said. “La Cueva did a good job of getting back. That’s why they’re two time defending state champions.
“It was just the little things that beat us tonight. If we do the little things right, we have a chance to win the game.”