By Kevin Wilson
The Ruidoso Lady Warriors had a first half that made an upset seem plausible.
The Portales Lady Rams had a better second half, though, and they cruised to a 64-47 victory Tuesday night, securing a perfect regular season in District 4-3A.
In winning their seventh-straight, Portales (18-4, 6-0 district) concentrated on pounding the ball inside to counter the hot shooting from Ruidoso.
The Lady Warriors (10-11, 1-4) lived by the 3-pointer in the first half, but died by turnovers in the second. Ruidoso hit 7-of-11 from beyond the arc to eke out a 31-28 halftime lead, but fell victim to 12 second-half turnovers, many of which led directly to Portales layups.
“I think one of the main things is that they play good man defense,” Ruidoso coach Greg Marez said. “They put really good pressure on our guards and capitalized on turnovers.”
After Ruidoso earned its biggest lead in the second half, 36-30 on a 3-pointer from Clarissa Silva (team-high 14 points), Portales shut the door on defense and put together a 22-4 run over the next nine minutes.
Portales didn’t make a 3-pointer in the contest, and didn’t even attempt one in the second half. Instead, senior point guard Roni Gomez racked up 11 assists by finding senior wing Kassandra Richards (23 points) and sophomore post Morgan Hill (16) in the right places.
“I think she saw people open pretty well,” Portales coach Brenda Gomez said of her daughter, who had four points. “We emphasized getting it inside.”
The emphasis paid off, as Portales shot 80 percent (12-of-15) in the second half, more than countering Ruidoso’s hot-shooting from the arc — the Lady Warriors ended up 8-of-14 from 3-point range.
“We came out a lot more ready to play in the second half,” said Portales guard Erika Cook. “We were surprised (with their shooting), but we weren’t playing defense like we’re used to.”
Cook gave her coaches and teammates a scare midway through the fourth quarter, as she fell on a defensive series and remained on the floor as play continued.
After play stopped on a long jumper by Beth Robinson, Cook was helped off the floor.
Tom Ebell, a trainer with Roosevelt General Hospital, diagnosed Cook’s injury as a quadricep contusion and said recovery time can be anywhere from a few days to a few weeks. While those around her feared an ACL injury — Portales has already lost sophomore Megan Kabrick to one — Cook didn’t fear the worst.
“I wasn’t worried it was my knee,” said Cook, who added eight points for Portales. “I knew I got charley-horsed right away.”
The Lady Rams host Goddard Friday night, and Gomez wasn’t sure whether Cook would return to the lineup for the non-district game.
“I don’t know,” Gomez said. “Tom said we need to wait and see. I think a lot of it won’t be up to her — it will be up to Tom.”
After that, Portales will wait to host either Ruidoso or Lovington in the District 4-3A title game, scheduled for 7 p.m. tipoff Feb. 27. Ruidoso hosts Lovington Friday night, with the winner hosting a district playoff game Tuesday between the same teams.
The Portales junior varsity also wrapped up a perfect district season, beating Ruidoso 60-28.