By Eric Butler: PNT Correspondent
RIO RANCHO — Though one preferred to press and run and the other was content in the half-court game, the Highland and Portales girls basketball teams had one thing in common for most of the afternoon on Wednesday — the score.
Tied at half and at the end of the third quarter, the squads traded leads three times in the last three minutes before the Hornets’ LaVainna Trammel hit a pair of free throws with 10 seconds left to seal a 55-54 Highland win.
“I was just thinking we had to win this game. I mean, I was nervous, but my coach told me to just calm down,” said Trammel, who also stole a pass after making her game-winning free throws.
Portales (2-3) went ahead 54-53 when Morgan Hill put back a missed free throw with one minute remaining. Hill, who finished with 10 points, was saddled with her fourth foul at the beginning of the third quarter and didn’t get back in the game until just over two minutes were left in the game.
But, trying to help defend a drive by Trammel, Hill fouled out and put the Hornets’ player on the line.
Twice in the tight contest, Highland (4-1) answered Portales 3-pointers with a trey of its own to put the skids on a potential momentum swing to the Rams.
With 32 seconds left in the first half, a three by Portales’ Brianna Hernandez put her team up 22-21. But Highland’s Deeva Vaughn answered with a long-range bomb nine seconds later.
Hernandez canned another 3-pointer to give the Rams a 50-47 advantage with 3:35 left in the game. On the Hornets’ next possession, however, Trammel drained her first shot of the second half from beyond the arc and the game was tied for the final time.
Portales had the ball and a 54-53 lead with 30 seconds remaining. A give-and-go between Rebekah Gonzales and Montana Russell led to an open path to the basket for Russell, but her shot fell off to give the Class 5A Hornets one last opportunity.
“You can’t pass off shots like that and she (Russell) did a good thing by running to the basket,” Portales coach Brenda Gomez said. “We made a good pass, she just didn’t finish. But we made some bad passes, nonchalant passes, and defensively we just didn’t stay between your man and the ball.”
Hernandez, who hit all four of Portales 3-pointers, said the game was certainly an improvement over her team’s last outing — a 33-20 loss Tuesday to Sudan (Texas).
Portales’ faces Del Norte — a 73-21 loser to Clovis — in today’s consolation semifinals of the eight-team tournament.
“We just made a couple of errors there at the end that we shouldn’t have. We played a lot better than Tuesday,” said Hernandez, who finished with 12 points. “I really wish we would have won, so we could have played Clovis again. We didn’t play very well against them either.”
Vaughn led the Hornets with 19 points while Megan Kabrick paced the Rams with 15.