By Kevin Wilson
The Portales girls basketball team was treated to a video doubleheader this week.
The Lady Rams didn’t watch “Matchstick Men,” “Lost in Translation” or anything like that. Instead, they watched a pair of basketball games as a reminder of exactly what’s at stake over the next few weeks.
“We’ve been watching last year’s district championship,” Portales coach Brenda Gomez said, “and it brought up some feelings.”
Portales (19-6) hosts Lovington (17-8) in a 7 p.m. game tonight for the District 4-3A championship game. Lovington defeated Ruidoso 58-42 on Tuesday to earn the right to play Portales.
Tonight’s winner will earn homecourt advantage for a regional game against the District 3-3A runnerup (either Socorro or Grants). The loser must go on the road to face the 3-3A champ.
The Portales players have been idle since beating Goddard 48-27 in a non-district game Friday, and have focused most of their idle time to ensure Lovington doesn’t pull a repeat of last season’s 57-44 win.
The game put Portales on the road for regionals, and the Lady Rams barely escaped Pojoaque with a 37-35 victory. That was the second game the players watched, because Gomez felt it was a good reminder of how small of a margin separated a state championship from an early end to the season.
“I believe a lot of it was positive reinforcement,” Gomez said. “We watched the Pojoaque game to realize how extremely lucky we were to get into the state tournament, let alone win it.”
Portales went on to win the state tournament, beating Lovington in the title game.
During last year’s district tournament, Morgan Hill was a freshman who played sparingly. Now, she is the starting center for Portales, which, like Lovington, has gone through a few changes.
“They’re a little bit different without (Michelle) Alexander gone,” Hill said of Lovington. “They don’t have as much of a post game. They still have a post game, but (now) their outside game is really good.”
Portales, winners of eight straight, won all three games from Lovington in district play. However, the game at Portales came down to overtime, with the Lady Rams blowing a 22-point lead before winning 61-59.
“We have to not turn it over, play good defense and keep intensity for four quarters,” Gomez said.