University of New Mexico freshman A.J. Richard of Albuquerque was at The Pit on Tuesday to cheer on the Portales Lady Rams. Richard said he and his friends adopted Portales after meeting the players at a Wendy's restaurant earlier in the week.
ALBUQUERQUE — Portales and Socorro both took care of business on Thursday, setting up a finals matchup featuring precisely what both team wanted — each other.
“It’s exactly what everyone’s wanted to see since November first — Socorro and Portales,” Lady Warriors coach Joseph Garcia said. “And everyone’s gonna get their wish.”
Top-seeded Socorro (29-1) won a 40-39 thriller against Grants in the semifinals to advance to the Class 3A title game against the second-seeded Lady Rams (23-6).
Before getting to Albuquerque, Portales coach Brenda Gomez said she hoped to see Socorro in the finals to prove that her team deserved the top seed. She summed up her thoughts on the matchup with two short sentences.
“It’s great, it’s perfect,” she said.
This will be the second title game meeting between the squads in the past three seasons. In 2004, the Lady Rams topped Socorro 63-46.
After watching the Lady Warriors escape from Grants, Gomez said she saw good things in how they played, but she thinks her team has the edge in the finals.
“They work well together as a team,” Gomez said. “I don’t think they’re near as deep as we are and they don’t have the experience we have. I know they’re ranked number one, but right now it doesn’t matter.”
Garcia had praise for the Portales coach.
“Brenda is the best coach there is in triple A,” Garcia said. “I’m not going to outsmart her, let’s put it that way.”
Socorro’s senior post Audra Major scored 27 points in the semifinals, but came off the floor limping in the game’s final seconds.
Garcia said Major will play in the finals, but she is unlikely to be at 100 percent.
“I just wish Audra’s ankle was full strength,” Garcia said. “Everybody else is gonna have to step it up and pick up the pace to make up the difference that maybe Audra can’t give us.”
The Socorro coach said he was not concerned about any height mismatch with Portales’ big seniors, 6-foot-1 Morgan Hill and 5-foot-10 Megan Kabrick.
“You know what, we have big girls too,” Garcia said. “They have two big girls, we have four big girls.”
Major and junior Victoria Zamora are listed at 5-foot-10 for the Lady Warriors and seniors Marissa Vega and Jelise Vega are listed at 5-foot-11.
Major said this year’s Socorro team has a better chance to beat Portales than 2004’s team did.
“I’m not saying anything bad about that team,” Major said. “But I think this year’s team has more potential than that team.”
Garcia said his team will have to focus on taking away the Lady Rams’ inside game.
“We only gave up 35 points per game for the whole season,” Garcia said. “Defense has won us 29 games this year, and if we’re gonna win (today) it’s going to be our defense again.”
The Lady Warriors coach said he and his team have put in a lot of hard work to get to the title game.
“Since the week after basketball ended last year we’ve been getting ready for this — this game (today),” Garcia said. “After (today) maybe everybody can rest for a week or two.”