By Rick White
ALBUQUERQUE — Kassandra Richards is determined to make the most of every second she has left in her prep basketball career.
Forced to the bench by fouls early in the fourth quarter, the Portales senior had a hard time sitting and watching as Robertson made a determined run.
She came out firing when she reentered the game, hitting back-to-back 3-pointers and triggering a game-breaking run as Portales held off Robertson 56-46 in a Class 3A girls semifinal Wednesday at The Pit.
Richards finished with 17 points and 10 rebounds as the Lady Rams (22-4) advanced to the state championship game in search of their third title in four years.
“I’m not used to being in foul trouble,” said Richards, who was 3-of-4 in the second half from behind the arc. “It’s so hard sitting on the bench. I wanted to go in so bad. I knew I had to do something when I got in there.”
With guards Nikki Garcia and Jessica Armijo warming up from 3-point range, Robertson (21-5) carved a 16-point deficit to 40-37 early in the fourth quarter.
Reenter Richards and exit Robertson.
Richards triggered a 14-3 run with the pair of 3s and a putback. Erika Cook’s 3-pointer from the top of the key a short time later restored Portales’ double-digit lead and silenced a predominantly Robertson crowd.
Sophomore post Morgan Hill added 14 points and nine rebounds as the Lady Rams won their 11th-straight game.
Richards wasn’t the only Lady Ram in foul trouble.
Senior point guard Roni Gomez, daughter of Portales coach Brenda Gomez, spent a large portion of the second half on the bench.
“I had to try and juggle people in and out all game,” coach Gomez said. “I hate to have Kassandra out because she’s such a scoring threat.”
Junior Patty Terry gave the Lady Rams a boost off the bench with seven points and six rebounds.
Junior Ashley Moore led the Las Vegas-based Cardinals (21-5) with 16 points and 10 rebounds and Garcia added 13 points.
Garcia, a pint-sized senior, scored seven points in the second quarter when Robertson was on the verge of getting blown out.
Garcia and Armijo each hit a pair of 3s in the third quarter as Robertson closed within 40-33 after three quarters.
Gomez said she wasn’t surprised the Cardinals made a run.
“You could tell by the way the kids played that they weren’t going to give up,” Gomez said. “The word ‘quit’ is not even in their vocabulary.”
She said Portales’ big-game experience helped the Lady Rams stem the tide.
“I don’t know if we would have survived if we hadn’t been here before,” Gomez said.
With the 6-foot Hill leading the way, Portales pounded Robertson 26-11 on the boards in the first half.
Hill had 10 points and seven rebounds, helping Portales to a seemingly secure 30-16 halftime lead.