By Kevin Wilson
The host Portales Lady Rams capitalized on a poor start from Lovington, and took back the District 4-3A tournament title with a 70-57 win Friday night.
Erika Cook scored 20 points to lead three in double figures for Portales (20-4), which won its ninth-straight game and reclaimed the title that Lovington won on the same floor a year ago.
Portales jumped out to a 20-6 lead after the first quarter and led by 20 through a significant portion of the second half.
Kassanrda Richards, who scored 17 for Portales, felt a pair of games against Lovington were on the minds of her and her teammates — one which saw Portales blow a 22-point lead before winning in overtime earlier this season, and last year’s loss.
“Coach (Brenda Gomez) told us we had to play the whole game,” Richards said. “Lovington was down the whole time and they couldn’t get up.
“We’ll never forget last year, of course, but I think skipping the title last year and bringing it back in my senior year is the sweetest thing.”
Richards helped Portales end the first and second quarters on a strong note, as she turned a deflected shot into an alley-oop layup to end the first and added three-point play to end the first half for a 35-17 lead.
Lovington outscored Portales 40-35 after halftime, but did themselves in early with 3-of-16 shooting in the first 16 minutes.
“I just think our lack of intensity is what contributed to the first quarter and half,” Lovington coach Pilar Carrasco said. “After that, I felt we played pretty even with them — of course, they could just relax and enjoy a 20-point lead.”
Morgan Hill added 18 for Portales, while Roni Gomez had seven. The scoring wasn’t balanced for the Lady Rams, but the bench did its part by giving the starters adequate rest and not allowing Lovington to make a huge run.
“We tried to sub to make sure (the starters) got plenty of rest,” Coach Gomez said. “I think they played extremely well. I think all of them did a good job.”
Gomez also drew satisfaction from her team scoring 70 points, despite hitting just one 3-pointer all night.
“Part of it might be that (Lovington is) so used to playing against us,” Gomez said, “but it sure does make me feel better knowing that we aren’t going to rely on the three.”
Lovington placed four in double figures, with 13 points each from Jenna Compton and Kimberly Choate. Genevieve Olivas added 12, while Monique Perez had 11 for the Lady Wildcats.
Lovington travels to Socorro, which defeated Grants 42-41 in the District 3-3A championship. Portales, which is 8-1 at home this season, will host Grants either Friday or Saturday, most likely at 7 p.m.
Carrasco was upbeat after the game, and recalled that Portales won the Class 3A trophy after losing the 4-3A title game last season.
“I really wanted the district championship for my seniors so we could win it two years in a row,” Carrasco said. “Maybe what happened last year is going to happen this year.
“With the district championship, you don’t get a big blue trophy. What we’ve got to do is take care of matters and get into the big game.”