By Dave Wagner: Freedom Newspapers
CLOVIS — Things were going along pretty well for the Portales Lady Rams on Thursday. Then, all of a sudden they hit a wall.
Leading by 10 points just over two minutes into the second half, the Lady Rams managed only two more points the rest of the way and dropped a 34-28 decision to La Cueva in the opening round of the Plateau Holiday Classic at Rock Staubus Gym.
Portales (3-6) returns to action in a 4 p.m. consolation semifinal today against Gallup, a 42-39 loser on Thursday to Eldorado. It will be a matchup of defending state champions — the Lady Rams in Class 3A, the Bengals in Class 5A.
Portales scored the final eight points of the first half for a 21-14 lead before senior Briana Hernandez made it 26-16 with her second 3-pointer of the game, coming at the 5:51 mark of the third quarter. Senior Kaycee Quick’s baseline shot in the final minute of the period ended an 11-0 Bears run and gave Portales the lead back, but Brenna Freeze’s layup with six seconds left put La Cueva in front for good.
The Bears (6-1) got baskets from Sandy Cook and Freeze in the first 3 1/2 minutes of the final quarter. They cruised down the stretch despite managing only one free throw the rest of the way.
“We just lost our intensity,” PHS girls coach Brenda Gomez said. “We didn’t play as hard as they did in the second half.
“We got a lot of opportunities, but we just didn’t finish. We were getting second and third shots, but we just couldn’t make one.”
La Cueva coach Sandy Berger said he thought his team’s switch from a man-to-man defense to a 1-3-1 zone made a big difference.
“We went to our zone and we were pretty effective,” he said. “But I don’t think they shot the ball very well.
“It was a little frustrating in the first half. Their pressure afffected us, but I thought when we got into our halfcourt offense we did all right.”
Berger said that, because of a couple of postponements, the Bears were playing their first game in three weeks.
“I kind of thought it may be a little (tough), but I didn’t think we’d have that slow of a start,” he said.
Freeze finished with nine points for the Bears, who because of postponements were playing for the first time in three ways. Hernandez was the only player in double figures for either team, scoring 11 points for Portales.
Gomez said she was more disturbed about her team’s defense that its lack of scoring.
“We didn’t pressure the ball enough,” she said. “You can always play defense, put a body on someone to block out. We didn’t go after loose balls like they did in the second half.”