ALBUQUERQUE — One by one they were pulled off the court, showered by loud cheers from the hometown faithful and choking back tears by the time they reached the Portales bench.
Kassandra Richards the scoring machine, Roni Gomez the playmaker and the versatile Erika Cook. Three seniors who will leave behind a legacy of three Class 3A state championships in four years.
The latest, a 63-46 win over championship game newcomer Socorro Friday at The Pit.
“We really, really play well together,” veteran Portales coach Brenda Gomez said. “The kids are really competitive and they know how to win.
“But what I think what really sets us apart is we play extremely good defense.”
Their offense wasn’t bad, either.
Richards led Portales with 21 points and added 10 rebounds, her second double-double of the tournament. Gomez added 13 points, while Cook finished with an uncharacteristic three points but led the team with five assists.
It is Portales’ fourth title under Gomez and the fifth in school history.
And they might not be done with their current string of state titles.
The Lady Rams return a solid sophomore class led by 6-footer Morgan Hill, who finished with 16 points, 10 rebounds and seven blocks, and Megan Kabrick, a 5-10 post who can score, pass and defend. Kabrick suffered a season-ending knee injury in late December but is expected to be back playing basketball by the end of the summer.
“They’re going to be really good again next year,” Roni Gomez said. “They better be.”
And the mantle of the state’s top Class 3A program was passed down to a new group of Lady Rams.