By Dave Wagner
ALBUQUERQUE — The Portales Lady Rams advanced to the Class 3A girls state semifinals Tuesday night, pulling away in the second half for a 57-46 victory over Wingate in a quarterfinal game at La Cueva High School.
Junior Megan Kabrick scored eight of her team-high 12 points in the first quarter for the Lady Rams (15-11), who meet District 4-3A rival Ruidoso for the fifth time this season in a 4 p.m. semifinal game on Thursday at Rio Rancho. The Lady Warriors (16-13) advanced by holding off third-seeded Las Vegas Robertson 54-52.
PHS girls coach Brenda Gomez said she wasn’t surprised her team, seeded second, had trouble pulling away from the Lady Bears (15-12).
“Wingate’s a good team, and they make things happen,” she said. “A lot of things can happen in the first round of the state tournament.
“I think we calmed down in the second half. The kids kept their composure.”
Portales is the highest remaining seed in the semifinal round. Top-seeded Grants was beatedn 56-52 by Santa Fe Indian School on the other side of the bracket.
Morgan Hill, Tara Johnson and Briana Hernandez all finished with 10 points for the Lady Rams. Hernandez converted a short jump shot to put PHS in front for good 22-20 with three minutes to go in the half.
Hill scored twice around a 3-pointer by senior Patty Terry to stretch a five-point lead to 40-28 midway through the third period. Wingate never got closer than six points after that, and the Lady Rams kept their margin in double figures over the final 5 1/2 minutes.
Junior post Miranda Willie led all scorers with 17 points for Wingate. Junior post Natasha Yellowfeather and sophomore guard Christina Belove each finished with nine points.
“They’re a tough team, and those two big girls (Willie and Yellowfeather) are good,” said Hill, who just missed a double-double with nine rebounds.
Kabrick hit a pair of 3-pointers in the first five minutes and Portales opened a 14-7 lead late in the quarter, but a 3-pointer by Krysh Chapo and Willie’s rebound basket pulled Wingate within two points at the quarter.
The Lady Bears pulled even three times early in the second quarter before the basket by Hernandez started a 7-0 Portales run that also included a 3-pointer and a rebound basket by Johnson. Ashleah Richards converted two free throws with 1.1 seconds left in the half for a 29-26 Lady Rams margin.
Gomez said she isn’t thrilled having to play Ruidoso for a fifth time this season — PHS has won three of the previous four meetings — but she’s glad to have the opportunity.
“We’ll take on the challenge — thank goodness we’re there,” she said. “I’m glad for the opportunity to play them again.”
Hill expects the Lady Warriors to be feisty.
“We know they’re going to come out hungry,” she said. “We know we need to work as hard as we can against them.”