Lady Rams finish fifth in tourney

By Eric Butler

RIO RANCHO — It was Portales coach Brenda Gomez’ express wish, after a quarterfinal loss in the Mel Otero Rio Rancho Invitational on Thursday, that her Lady Rams break an 0-4 winless streak to start the season.
As soon as possible.
Two days later, Portales (2-4) had done just that with a pair of victories to close out the tourney.
The Lady Rams clubbed Santa Fe 53-28 on Friday, but win No. 2 didn’t come easily on Saturday as a Portales secured a 40-39 win over Del Norte only after junior Morgan Hill blocked a Knights shot as time ran out.
Del Norte (1-6) called a timeout with 3.9 seconds remaining and set up a play for Nikita Shanks, the Knights’ leading scorer with 15. But her try under the goal was stopped by Hill, and time expired as the ball went back into Shanks’ hands.
“I thought it (the block) would be enough, but then she got it again,” said Hill, who was selected to the all-tournament team. “We didn’t play anywhere close to our potential out there. We stumbled. There are days when we really, really step it up — and this wasn’t one of them.
“But we came out with a ‘W’ and that’s what counts, I guess.”
Ashleah Richards was a major figure for Portales down the stretch against Del Norte. Without a point in the first half, Richards tallied 10 after the intermission, and she also grabbed four rebounds.
Del Norte led the low-scoring contest 22-18 near the end of the third quarter. But Richards put back her own miss with 1:43 left in the period and followed that with a pair of free throws 40 seconds later to tie the game.
After the Knights went ahead 39-38 on a Shanks basket with 1:04 remaining, Richards fearlessly went into the taller Del Norte defense and hit the final basket of the game with 54 seconds left on the clock.
“Ashleah worked really hard to get in there,” Gomez said. “She got great boards and took it to the hole. And she kind of took charge and was a calming factor most of the time.
“We’ve got to have that. With the kids we’ve got out there, we need someone sometimes to tell them that it’s okay.”
Earlier, it was the play of eighth-grader Tara Johnson that sometimes the only thing working for the Lady Rams on offense. Of Portales’ 12 points at halftime, Johnson had eight as well as grabbing four rebounds.
Another “kid,” freshman Bethany Self also was a contributor in the second half. Self, after committing a foul that helped Del Norte convert a 3-point play to tie the game at 35-35, converted her own 3-point play to put Portales up 38-35.
Johnson finished with eight points against Del Norte. Hill’s 10 points paced Portales on Friday against Santa Fe.
“Portales is just very well-coached and very fundamentally sound,” Del Norte coach Albert Ronquillo said. “And they made shots and we didn’t.”

Mel Otero Rio Rancho Invite
Thursday’s quarterfinals
Rio Rancho 78, Santa Fe 17
Dallas J.F. Kimball 37, Portales 31
Los Lunas 48, Del Norte 38
Clovis 68, Las Cruces 45
Friday’s semifinals
Consolation bracket
Del Norte 54, Las Cruces 43
Portales 53, Santa Fe 28
Championship bracket
Clovis 50, Los Lunas 42
Rio Rancho 52, J.F. Kimball 41
Saturday’s finals
Las Cruces 55, Santa Fe 40 (7th)
Portales 40, Del Norte 39 (5th)
Los Lunas 60, J.F. Kimball 46 (3rd)
Clovis 44, Rio Rancho 35 (championship)

Friday
Consolation semifinals
Portales 53, Santa Fe 28
Santa Fe (0-3) —
Sonja Chavez 9, Missy Valenzuela 8, Gabby Martinez 4, Katie Valdez 4, Fran Ellenburg 3. Totals 11 5-10 28.
Portales (1-4) — Morgan Hill 10, Briana Hernandez 9, Megan Kabrick 9, Tara Johnson 7, Ashleah Richards 6, Bethany Self 5, Patty Terry 3, Dora Garcia 2, Caroline Knudson 2. Totals 21 7-13 53.
Santa Fe 4 6 7 11 — 28
Portales 15 16 13 9 — 53
3-pointers — Santa Fe (1): Chavez. Portales (4): Hernandez, Johnson, Richards, Terry. Total fouls — Santa Fe 8, Portales 8. Fouled out — Ellenburg.

Saturday
Fifth place
Portales 40, Del Norte 39
Del Norte (1-6) —
Nikita Shanks 15, Allison Sarracino 9, Keshia Velencia 7, Unique Thompson 6, Jessica Redhouse 2. Totals 16 6-8 39.
Portales (2-4) — Ashleah Richards 10, Tara Johnson 8, Patty Terry 6, Bethany Self 5, Morgan Hill 4, Caroline Knudson 3, Hernandez 2, Kabrick 2. Totals 14 10-13 40.
Del Norte 6 6 10 17 — 39
Portales 5 7 10 18 — 40
3-pointers — Del Norte (1): Thompson. Portales (2): Kundsen, Terry. Total fouls — Del Norte 16, Portales 14. Fouled out — none.