Freedom Newspapers: Eric Kluth
Portales girls coach Brenda Gomez talks with junior guard Rebekah Gonzales during Tuesday's quarterfinal game against Wingate.
ALBUQUERQUE — The Portales Lady Rams went into the girls Class 3A state tournament as the No. 2 seed, but the two-time defending champions are now the team to beat.
While Portales dispatched seventh-seeded Wingate 57-46 on Tuesday, top seed Grants (24-2) was falling to Santa Fe Indian School 56-52.
Portales has a date with District 4-3A rival Ruidoso in today’s 3 p.m. semifinal matchup at Rio Rancho High School after the Lady Warriors (16-13) sent third-seeded Las Vegas Robertson packing 56-52 in the opening round.
It will be the fifth time the teams have met this season. They split in Portales, with the Lady Rams winning 38-31 last week in the district tournament final, while PHS ran away to 16 and 26-point victories in Ruidoso.
“We might change some things,” PHS girls coach Brenda Gomez mused Wednesday. “We’ve had some people playing post who might play guard and (vice-versa). We’ll try to get some mismatches.”
The Lady Rams have struggled against Ruidoso in the two contests at Portales.
“We weren’t as aggressive as we needed to be,” she said of Saturday’s 38-31 victory. “We were playing not to lose instead of playing to win. But we know we can beat them, so we just have to take care of business.”
Senior guard Christine Brown collected 18 points and 12 rebounds in Ruidoso’s win over Robertson.
“I think they just like to get it and go; that’s what they do,” Gomez said. “Christine Brown is pretty good for them at taking the ball to the (basket).”
Portales had a balanced attack against Wingate (15-12) with four players in double figures. In addition, junior Ashleah Richards didn’t make a field goal but went 8-for-11 from the free throw line.
The Lady Rams got 10 points off the bench from sophomore guard Briana Hernandez, who went 4-of-9 from the field.
“She didn’t shoot well at (the start), and that worried me,” Gomez said. “Sometimes that makes her quit shooting. But she’s got a good touch, and she goes to the boards hard.”
Hernandez did miss her first two shots, but said she didn’t panic.
“I just play my game,” she said. “(When I struggle) I talk to my mom and the coaches, and they tell me not to worry about it.”
She said the Lady Rams are determined to win another title, which would be their fourth in five seasons.
“We want to do a three-peat,” she said. “We don’t want it to end now.”