By Dave Wagner
Two highly successful girls programs, two almost completely different rosters.
But the results have been remarkably similar.
Portales High has enjoyed runs of three Class 3A state championships in four years — 2001, 2003 and 2004 — for both girls basketball and tennis.
In 2002 the basketball team finished second at state, while the tennis team placed third.
Three seniors who also played key roles in the basketball team’s 2003 state title run — Kassandra Richards, Roni Gomez and Erika Cook — finished off the 2004 championship in March with a 63-46 win over Socorro.
“I just went out and played hard in what will probably be my last game I’ll ever play, at least with these girls,” said Richards, whose 21 points and 10 rebounds in the finals gave her a second consecutive double-double at state. “It’s our senior year and we wanted to go out No. 1.”
Portales, which finished the season with a 12-game winning streak and lost only to Class 5A schools Clovis (0-3) and Rio Rancho (1-1), also got a huge lift in the title tilt from 6-foot-1 sophomore post Morgan Hill with 16 points, 10 rebounds and seven blocks.
Socorro coach Joseph Garcia was suitably impressed.
“If they could, they’d be playing for the Class 4A state championship and would probably make the final four in Class 5A,” he said.
Cook and Gomez were also members of the first title team as freshmen.
“This year has gone by so fast,” Cook said. “You know it’s your last year and the next thing you know it’s over.”
It was a bittersweet moment for Gomez and her mother, longtime PHS girls coach Brenda Gomez.
“Now we can go back to being mother and daughter,” the coach said. “(The championship) is one of the sweetest things I’ve ever experienced.”
The tennis team had to go to the wire to get its title against Sandia Prep in May after the Sundevils tied the championship dual 2-2 with a win by their doubles team of Rebecca Younger and Mackenzie Yates.
The pressure was squarely on PHS junior Rachelle Self, facing Sandia Prep’s Kathryn Short in the final matchup — winner take all.
“I knew I had to win,” Self said. “I was trying to block everything out and focus on what I had to do.”
She won the first set 6-4, but let a 3-0 lead slip away in the second set as Short rallied to take it 7-5 and square the match.
Self regained her composure ant took the third set 6-4.
“I just prayed a lot,” she said. “I guess that carried me through.”
Portales also claimed the doubles championship in individual competition, with Self and senior Hailey Quick taking that honor two days early with a 3-6, 7-6, 6-4 win over Annie Garcia and Erika Sommer of St. Michael’s.