District races up for grabs in Portales-Lovington contests

By Dave Wagner

The bizarre District 4-3A girls regular-season championship has gotten down to a two-game race.
All three teams stand 2-2, having split head-to-head, with one round to go heading into tonight’s 7 p.m. matchup between Portales High and Lovington at the PHS gym.
Meantime, the PHS boys have a chance to clinch a regular-season district crown tonight with a win at Lovington.
Nothing has gone according to form on the girls’ side of the ledger. Portales routed Lovington (9-13) at home 70-26 three weeks ago, but lost the rematch 11 days later 57-36 on the road.
The Lady Rams (10-11) have a 16-point win at Ruidoso (13-9), but lost to the Lady Warriors 50-42 last Friday at home.
“I think it goes back to the fact that us and Lovington don’t have that many kids back from last year, and Ruidoso has never been (in this situation) before,” PHS girls coach Brenda Gomez said. “That’s why I think there’s been so much inconsistency.”
PHS expects to regain the services tonight of junior forward Megan Kabrick, who has missed six games dating to Jan. 14 with what was determined to be a stress fracture near her pelvis. She won’t start, Gomez said, but should see considerable action.
Gomez herself missed PHS’ first three district games, including both Lovington contests, because of the illness and subsequent death of her sister in Farmington.
“If we just execute, we’ll be all right,” Gomez said. “The first time we played Lovington we had 10 turnovers; the second time we had 25.
“There’s not any part of our game right now that we know is consistent and will be there day-in and day-out.”
The PHS boys (15-7, 4-0), winners of seven in a row, and Lovington (13-9, 3-1) have distanced themselves from Ruidoso and New Mexico Military in district play. Portales won the earlier meeting from the Wildcats at home 62-50, but hasn’t won in Lovington since the 2000-01 season, coach Mark Gallegos said.
“It’s a big game for us,” he said. “They play as tough a (pre-district) schedule as we do. It’s a good matchup for us; I think we’re pretty evenly matched.”
The Rams were able to contain Lovington’s 1-2 punch of seniors Ryan Hargrove and Jared Swenson the first time around. Hargrove scored 16 points — only five in the first three quarters — while Swenson had 14.
“As those two kids go, they go,” Gallegos said. “If we can contain Swenson and Hargrove, we’ve got a good chance to be in the game and win the game.”
Even if they lose tonight, PHS would need only to beat NMMI (2-15, 0-4) at home next Friday to ensure no worse than a tie for first and a playoff for the district’s regular-season championship.