From a team that finished 12-17 last season, the Clovis High girls are hopeful of making a run for the blue trophy next week.
The Lady Wildcats (23-4) have put together 14 consecutive wins and 19 in their last 20 games heading into Friday’s Class 5A first-round state tournament game against West Mesa (12-15) at Rock Staubus Gym.
First-year Clovis coach Jeff Reed acknowledges his squad has probably exceeded realistic expectations, but added that the Lady Cats set several goals at the outset of the season — 22 wins in the regular season, a District 4-5A championship, a perfect home record — and have met most of them.
Oh, and there’s one more — reach the Class 5A state championship game March 14 at The Pit in Albuquerque.
“I’ve always set high goals,” said Reed, a 1992 CHS graduate. “We may not reach them, but even if we fall just short we’re still doing pretty good.”
Junior post Antiesha Brown, the team’s leading scorer and rebounder, said the overall attitude is better — and the intangibles have also been better.
“Last year, (anything that) could go wrong, did go wrong,” said Brown, who averages nearly 17 points and seven rebounds a game. “This year, (assistant) coach (Regina) Downing and coach Reed have said that where there’s unity, there’s strength.”
It might have been tough to project this kind of year for the Lady Cats during their summer season. Reed said they did well, but several players who were with them back then aren’t with them now.
“But we had some ideas,” he said. “We played a lot of teams (last) summer, but that seems like 100 years ago.
“I almost feel like I’m coaching in my second year now.”
Brown said the players get along better than a year ago. And for her part, she said she’s grown into the role of a leader.
“Last year, I honestly don’t think I was ready for that role,” she said. “As I look back, I could’ve done this or done that, but this year I was determined to fill the role people had me in.
“This year, I’ve just grown up a lot and gotten more mentally tough.”
Reed, who coached a Clovis freshman boys team last year and has previously coached boys varsity squads at Clayton, Pampa and Dalhart, has had to adjust to coaching a girls team for the first time, although he said it isn’t really that big a change.
“It’s a little (different),” he said. “I went into this job as a basketball coach coaching a basketball team. I get on the girls just like I would if they were boys.
“The thing that’s different for me is how the girls accept it (criticism). They’ve been real coachable.”
Reed said he has no regrets taking the position and, in fact, might find it hard to go back to coaching boys.
“I couldn’t be more proud of the girls,” he said. “I think the system and the program have something to do with it, but the girls believe in it.
“We’ve preached attitude, heart, hustle, citizenship, self-motivation and discipline. We’ve always said if we do those six things, nine out of 10 times we’ll win.”