By Jesse Wolfersberger
ALBUQUERQUE — Most posts don’t handle the ball too far away from the basket. It turns out, Portales’ Morgan Hill is not like most posts.
With Hill often bringing the ball up court against Santa Fe Indian School’s signature full-court pressure, Portales controlled the tempo and the game en route to a 50-32 win over the defending Class 3A state champions Thursday in a state tournament semifinal game at The Pit.
Portales coach Brenda Gomez said she and her team have been waiting a long time to get the chance to make up for last season’s loss to the Lady Braves in the state title game.
“Let’s see… 365 days,” Gomez laughed. “It’s been a constant thing on my mind and I think the kids’ too.”
Hill, who finished with eight points and six rebounds, was glad the road to the championship went through Santa Fe Indian.
“We were so fired up,” Hill said. “Because last year they beat us so we wanted to just get them back and get to that championship game.”
Senior Megan Kabrick scored a season-high 17 points to lead the Lady Rams, who are making their sixth-straight championship game appearance. Portales (23-6) has won three of the last five titles.
Gomez said going up against the Lady Braves’ press in last year’s finals helped her scheme to use Hill to break the press in the rematch.
“Last year when they played against us they pushed us to the side and we turned the ball over several times,” Gomez said. “(Hill)’s done super. She can really handle the ball, I’m not going to say for her size, but for any kid on the floor.”
Portales broke Santa Fe Indian School’s press by lobbing the inbound pass to the 6-foot-1 Hill, who then either dished to a guard or took the ball upcourt herself.
Hill enjoyed her expanded role.
“Our play was to get it in to me,” Hill said. “A lot of times I was just open so I thought I could beat my man and get it down the floor. I don’t usually do that. It was kind of fun.”
Freshman point guard Tara Johnson and sophomore sub Bethany Self added nine points each for Portales.
Junior guard Shirell Begay led the Lady Braves (23-6) with 12 points followed by sophomore guard Marcelita Povijua with 10.
Santa Fe, which also relies heavily on 3-pointers, went cold from behind the arc in the second half. The Lady Braves were 0-for-13 from behind the arc after the break. They were 3-of-10 in the first two quarters.
“We pressured them like they did to us last year,” Kabrick said.
The Lady Braves led 19-17 in the opening minutes of the second quarter, but Portales closed the half on a 12-3 run to take control.
Santa Fe Indian coach John Abeyta said he could tell by his team’s free throws, 9-of-19 from the stripe, that his team was having a poor shooting day.
“We played hard, we just didn’t execute like we could have,” Abeyta said. “It was just one of those days where nothing went right.”
Santa Fe Indian’s starting center, senior Janine Chinana, played limited minutes because of foul trouble.
“That was real big for us,” Abeyta said. “Not to be mean, but there is no way we could have won today. Janine is one of the main focal points on our team.”
Chinana had three fouls before halftime and finished with four.
Self said winning decisively was the icing on the cake of a big win.
“I’m glad that we got to get revenge on them,” Self said. “Not just a little, but to kill ‘em.”
Portales 50, Santa Fe Indian 32
Santa Fe Indian (23-6) — Marceita Povijua 4 0-3 10, Adrianne Tenorio 0 0-2 0, Janine Chinana 0 0-0 0, Shirell Begay 2 8-12 12, Kaylinea Abeyta 2 1-2 5, April Abeyta 0 0-0 0, Karen Hoskie 1 0-0 3, Amanda Jiron 1 0-0 2. Totals 10 9-19 32.
Portales (23-6) — Tara Johnson 2 5-6 9, Rebekah Gonzales 0 0-0 0, Briana Hernandez 1 1-2 3, Montana Russell 0 0-0 0, Megan Kabrick 5 7-9 17, Bethany Self 4 1-3 9, Amanda Terry 0 0-0 0, Morgan Hill 4 0-0 8, Ashleah Richards 1 1-4 4. Totals 17 15-24 50.
Santa Fe Indian 11 10 5 6 — 32
Portales 13 16 9 12 — 50
3-pointers — Santa Fe Indian, Povijua 2, M. Aguilar. Portales, Richards.