By Rick White: Freedom Newspapers
Unlike previous seasons, Portales heads into the state tournament without proven stars.
What the Lady Rams do have is a deep, role-oriented team that is the favorite to win their fifth Class 3A title in seven years when the state tournament opens today in Albuquerque.
“I can play 10 people at any time and they all can be productive,” veteran Portales coach Brenda Gomez said. “It’s fun. Everybody gets along really well and everybody knows their roles.”
Senior sharpshooter Briana Hernandez, speedy point guard Tara Johnson and posts Bethany Self and Kaycee Quick are returnees from last year’s title team.
Hernandez averages 14 points a game while Johnson adds 10.
Senior Shyla Carthel (5-10) and junior Vicki Huber (5-9) add depth inside while senior Sabrina Villanueva gives the Lady Rams another solid outside shooter.
“It’s not just one person,” senior guard Montana Russell said. “It’s all of us playing together.”
Portales (16-9) plays No. 9 Ruidoso (17-10) today in the quarterfinals of the state tournament in Albuquerque.
It is the fourth meeting between the District 4-3A teams this season. Portales won the first three meetings handily, however, Gomez and Russell said the Lady Rams can’t afford to overlook the Warriors.
“If we just go out and play like we know how to we should be okay,” Russell said.
Ruidoso beat Class 3A newcomer Laguna-Acoma 61-52, last week in the first round. The Warriors are led by 5-foot-9 post Hailee Bob, Tonee Montoya and Charli Largo.
Gomez said the top threats at state are Santa Fe Indian School — which the Lady Rams would face in Thursday’s semifinals if they both win today — No. 2 Hope Christian and Wingate.
Santa Fe Indian ended Portales’ bid for three straight titles in 2005 while the Lady Rams knocked out SFIS in last year’s semifinals.
‘We’ve just got to go out and stay focused and play to win,” Gomez said.