District rivalry renewed

By Kevin Wilson

Throughout the history of New Mexico high school basketball, and particularly the last two years, the Lovington-Portales girls rivalry has been a good story.
The setting: with pre-district seasons over, the Lady Rams and the Lady Wildcats seek supremacy in District 4-3A and all of Class 3A. Their paths cross three times during the regular season, the first one tonight at Lovington.
The conflict: Lovington has something that Portales wants, the District 4-3A championship. The Lady Wildcats won it last March at Portales, 57-44.
“That is no longer in our minds,” Portales coach Brenda Gomez said. “We have to prove ourselves again in district, even though we won the most important game.”
What Gomez refers to is the Class 3A championship, won by Portales 59-51 two weeks later in Albuquerque. Ergo, Portales has something that Lovington wants.
“I think the competition we had last year and the year before is pretty fresh in our kids’ minds,” Gomez said.
The resolution: Such a resolution could be found in the district title game (Feb. 27) or the state tournament (March 11-13).
(That is, if 9-7 Ruidoso doesn’t pull off an upset in the district playoffs. Ruidoso is on a five-game winning streak entering Tuesday’s game in Portales.)
Lovington (12-5) is coming off a loss to Clovis last week, a position familiar to both squads (the two went a combined 0-5 against the 5A Lady ‘Cats). Since their last loss to Clovis, the Lady Rams (12-4) have run off easy victories at Goddard and Artesia.
Gomez feels that Lovington is pretty comparable to last year, despite its struggles to replace Michelle Alexander in the post.
“They have a pretty big hole where Alexander was,” Gomez said. “She was really a positive for their team, and they’re having a hard time trying to fill that.”
Gomez’ main concerns with Lovington are the Lady Wildcats’ ability to play at a higher level against Portales, in addition to athleticism that has seen no dropoff from last season.
“They already have our respect as far as scoring threats and quickness,” Gomez said. “They’re really quick and athletic and they can get to a lot of balls that other teams can’t.”
Lovington coach Pilar Carrasco couldn’t be reached for comment Thursday night.