By Kevin Wilson
Roni Gomez, like her Portales basketball team, had her highs and had her lows on Tuesday night.
She finished high, off the glass, and Portales survived a monumental comeback from Lovington with a 61-59 overtime win.
Gomez scored 12 points for Portales (15-4, 3-0 District 4-3A), including the game-winning shot off the backboard with two seconds left.
“It’s called 14 low,” Gomez said of the play that capped off a game where the Lady Rams enjoyed an early 22-point lead and saw it dissolve with timely shooting from Lovington (13-8, 0-3).
“I’m supposed to drive down the middle,” Gomez said. “If I have the shot I take it and if I don’t, I dump it off to the post.”
Portales Coach Brenda Gomez said her team’s been practicing that play and others like it for three weeks.
“It’s always good to be in a situation and come out ahead,” she said.
Just 10 minutes in, it seemed unlikely that Portales would ever be in that situation.
The visiting Lady Wildcats led early, but fell into a quick deficit thanks to a 28-4 run that bridged the first and second quarters. While Lovington was missing 3-pointers throughout the half, Kassandra Richards (game-high 25 points) and her Lady Ram teammates were scoring on a mix of layups, free throws and back-breaking 3-pointers.
Lovington trailed 39-22 at the half, but got back into the game by playing with patience. A combination of long-distance shooting from Kim Choate (17 points) and Genevieve Olivas (11 points), plus the interior game from Monique Perez (team-high 18), put Lovington back into the contest.
Portales struggled through the second half with the slower pace, shooting just under 25 percent (7-of-32) from the field over the final two quarters and overtime.
Still, Lovington coach Pilar Carrasco thought the comeback was rooted in psychology as much as in defense.
“I just think it was our girls understanding we’re as good of a team as they are,” Carrasco said. “No matter what we’re doing, knowing that they’re a good team, but we’re a pretty good team — that was the difference.”
The second half saw a similar sequence through most of the night: Portales would either miss an interior shot or turn the ball over on a bad pass, Lovington would come back down the court and score, followed by Carrasco taking a timeout so his team could set up on defense and repeat the process.
That strategy produced a 17-4 run over the final six minutes of regulation.
“I think they just put a lot of pressure on us,” Coach Gomez said, “and we made some poor decisions on when to attack and when not to.”
Choate cut the lead to 55-54 with a transition layup with 21 seconds to play. The Lady Wildcats double-teamed Erika Cook in the backcourt on the ensuing possession, forcing a turnover and Cook’s fifth foul.
Jenna Compton hit one of the two free throws to tie the game, and a late 3-point attempt by Richards was off the mark to set up the first overtime game of the season for Portales.
With the game knotted at 59, Roni Gomez got free for a layup. The shot came up short, and the Lady Wildcats found Monique Perez with a five-foot headstart on anybody for a layup on the other end. However, Lady Ram defenders were able to catch up to Perez and force a travel with eight seconds.
After Gomez’ teammates bailed her out, she returned the favor with a short jumper that banked in with two seconds left. Lovington could do nothing with the final seconds, as it had used up all of its timeouts just to make the comeback.
“We played an awesome first half,” Roni Gomez said, “then we made silly mistakes and played down to their level.
“But we finished.”
In the junior varsity contest, Portales defeated Lovington 46-44.