Editor’s Note: This is the fifth in a series of 2003’s top 10 sports stories in the Portales News-Tribune. Stories No. 10 and No. 9 ran on Tuesday, while stories No. 8 and No. 7 ran on Wednesday. One story will follow in each issue until the top story on Jan. 1.
Pilar Carrasco traded his hair for a district championship. Midway through the fourth quarter, the Portales Lady Rams would have traded anything for a basket.
“Tonight was really all about the girls,” said Carrasco, the Lovington coach, who emerged from the locker room bald following a head-shaving from his girls. “I’ll trade it any day — I’d trade my hair for a district title.”
Michelle Alexander had 15 points to lead three in double figures, and the Lovington Lady Wildcats held host Portales without a field goal for the final 11:51 to score a 57-44 upset in the the District 4-3A tournament championship game.
The win, Lovington’s third-straight, earned the Lady Wildcats (16-9) the right to host the Class 3A Region A championship against Robertson this weekend. The upset was chosen as the No. 6 News-Tribune sports story for 2003.
Lovington controlled most of the game against Portales (16-6), but fought through stretches that could have given the Lady Rams the momentum. Gen Olivas picked up her third foul midway through the first quarter, which the Lady Wildcats answered with a 13-2 run that bridged the first and second periods. Olivas picked up her fourth foul in the second quarter, but Lovington held on and led 30-25 at the half.
“Gen Olivas got her fourth foul and I had so many girls step up,” Carrasco said. “I told the girls state championships and district championships are won by people who come off the bench.”
Portales went on a tear in the third quarter, going on a 14-2 run that gave them a 41-34 lead with 3:51 left in the period. But Lovington closed out the third by scoring the final seven points, including a buzzer-beating jumper from Jenna Compton, who finished with 11.
“The kids played hard,” Portales coach Brenda Gomez said, “and we got a rally and got ahead, then I made some substitutions and we never got it back.”
The Lady Rams missed their final eight shots of the third quarter and all 11 attempts in the fourth. Portales was held scoreless from the 3:51 mark of the third quarter until the 2:29 mark of the fourth, when Kassandra Richards hit three free throws to cut the Lovington lead to 51-44.
Richards (18 points) and Megan Kabrick (15 points) were Portales’ only double-figure scorers on the evening.
Portales got nothing after Richards’ free throws, and Lovington hit 9-of-14 free throws in the final period to ice the district title.
“Portales is a good team,” Carrasco said, “and I think we’re a pretty good team too. But when the chips were down, the girls came out and executed.”
The Lady Rams would have to win at Pojoaque to have any chance for their third-straight state title game appearance. In the case of both teams, one more off night means the end of the season.
“It’s the best eight teams in the state,” Gomez said, “so you can always get beat at home or on the road. Everyone’s got to play from here on out.”
Pojoaque pushed the Lady Rams to their limits in the regional championship the next week, but missed seven free throws during Portales’ 8-0 run and suffered a 37-35 loss.
With one final wake-up call, Portales pushed into high gear. The Lady Rams blew out Bernalillo in the semifinals to set up a rematch with the Lady Wildcats. Portales jumped out to a 22-8 lead and cruised to its second state championship in three seasons.