By Eric Butler
RIO RANCHO — Even the midst of a major comeback attempt, the burden of an 0-3 start and frustration over the quality of play boiled over for Portales girls coach Brenda Gomez on Thursday.
In a 37-31 loss to Dallas J.F. Kimball in the quartefinals of the Mel Otero Invite, Gomez shouted to one of her players, “Block out rebounding, one more time and you’re out.”
“Me?” shouted forward Ashleah Richards from the other side of the court.
Actually, Richards was the only Lady Rams player singled out for good play by Gomez. Battling inside for eight hard-earned rebounds, the 5-foot-5 Richards helped Portales (0-4) come back from a 36-21 deficit.
With a 10-1 run over the first half of the fourth quarter, Portales cut the score to 37-31. Kimball (10-1), a Class 5A Texas school, took the air out of the ball at that point with a spread offense and allowed the Lady Rams only two more possessions.
“We just can’t take care of the ball. We can’t get it into our post players. We can’t catch the ball, we don’t go to the ball,” Gomez said. “It’s like we’re starting from Day One. We don’t look strong enough to get them off of us in the paint. We’re not strong enough to square up to the ball.”
What hurt most for Portales were nine first-quarter turnovers against the Kimball press. Just as harmful was the Knights’ ability to score after rebounding their own missed shots. Kimball built a 12-6 lead early in the second period with the help of eight points via putbacks.
Portales was led by seven points from Briana Hernandez, while post players Megan Kabrick and Morgan Hill talled six apiece. Hill also blocked five Kimball shots — the last leading to Kabrick’s bucket with 3:50 remaining.
That was the game’s final basket, however.
Last year in this event, Portales defeated the Dallas squad in the semifinals before falling to host Rio Rancho in the championship game.
“The seniors I brought back with me, oh yeah, they remembered,” said Kimball coach Patsy Haley, who also remarked on Portales’ ability to slow the pace of the game down. “We’ve never, ever played a game and had only 37 points total. I guess you take a win however you can take it.”
Kimball will play Rio Rancho in Friday’s semifinals, while Portales takes on Santa Fe — a 78-17 loser to the host team Thursday’s first quarterfinal.
“We just need to get tougher. That’s what we were lacking this game — they were just more physical,” Richards said. “We’s going to get better. It’s going to take some time, but we want to do it now.”
J.F. Kimball 37, Portales 31
Portales (0-4) — Briana Hernandez 7, Morgan Hill 6, Megan Kabrick 6, Tara Johnson 4, Bethany Self 4, Ashleah Richards 2, Montana Russell 2. Totals 10 11-16 31.
Dallas J.F. Kimball (10-1) — Ashleigh Franklin 9, Catherine Yancy 8, Ashley Bynum 6, Jazimine Robinson 6, Shalawn Douglas 2, Monica Gray 2, Taylor Mumphrey 2, Asreil Rolfe 2. Totals 15 7-11 37.
Portales 6 8 7 10 — 31
Kimball 10 15 11 1 — 37
3-pointers — Portales none, J.F. Kimball none. Total fouls — Portales 13, J.F. Kimball 19. Fouled out — Douglas.