By Dave Wagner
ALBUQUERQUE — Say one thing for the Portales Lady Rams — the loud Shiprock crowd cheering against them on Friday never got to them.
Portales got off to a fast start, then made play after play to stay close and in the end outlasted top-seeded and previously unbeaten Shiprock 62-59 in overtime at the Pit for the Lady Rams’ first Class 3A girls state championship since 2006.
Sophomore forward Kambrey Blakey scored 23 points and grabbed 14 rebounds and sophomore guard Sheraya Cox added 17 points and six boards for PHS. The third-seeded Lady Rams (25-5) eventually fouled out three Shiprock players and went 28-for-45 for the game from the line, including 7-of-12 for all of their points in the OT.
For her part, Blakey shot 11-of-16 from the line against the Lady Chieftains and was 44-for-54 in the Lady Rams’ three games in Albuquerque.
Senior guard Taylor Henderson, daughter of coach Larenson Henderson, scored 13 points for the Lady Chieftans but fouled out late. Sophomore post Shontai Grey added 12 points off the bench, while freshman guard Taniesha Begay scored 10.
“Shiprock’s an awesome program and it has been for some time,” first-year Lady Rams coach Wade Fraze said. “It’s (like playing in front of) a home crowd, and we knew it’d be a little tough.”
He added, though, that the Lady Rams had their own sizable contingent of supporters.
“It’s probably the best crowd I’ve ever seen at Portales,” he said. “That really helps the girls.”
Coach Henderson said his team originally thought Blakey was No. 22 instead of No. 23. “We didn’t think she started, and we were waiting for her to (come) off the bench before we realized it,” he said.
Portales jumped on the Lady Chieftains (29-1) early, building leads of 7-0 and 12-3 before Shiprock used a 22-point second quarter to take a 29-25 lead at halftime.
“I felt like we were in good shape at halftime,” Fraze said.
The margin grew to seven early in the third quarter, but PHS never blinked.
“Any time you play a Native American team, you know they’ll have a lot of family and friends and it’ll be loud,” Cox said. “We just needed to try to use that to our advantage (as motivation).”
The game was tied after three quarters, and neither team led by more than three points after that until Cox made two free throws for a 61-57 lead with 52 seconds left in the OT. Begay scored on a drive with 39 seconds remaining, and PHS senior Francis Armijo added a free throw with 12.7 seconds to go.
The Lady Chieftains, though, committed the last of their 23 turnovers in forecourt on a bad pass to seal their fate.
Shiprock was the third 29-0 team to go down in two days at state, joining Clovis High’s girls and Laguna Acoma’s boys semifinal games played on Thursday at Rio Rancho’s Santa Ana Star Center.
“They were determined to win it all,” coach Henderson said. “This one’s going to hurt, but it’s just part of life.”