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Portales aims to finish with title

Portales girls basketball coach Brenda Gomez hopes and believes that her team will win its second-straight Class 3A title this week. In other news, the sun is very hot.

“We’ve been ranked No. 1 all year, which we should have been,” Gomez said after Tuesday’s practice, before the team left for Albuquerque. “I think we should be there (at No. 1); we’ve earned it.”

What Portales (21-4) hasn’t earned yet is the blue trophy, emblematic of the state title. The Lady Rams need two more wins, starting with today’s 2 p.m. semifinal matchup with Robertson.

The Lady Rams bring several impressive numbers into Albuquerque — a 10-game winning streak, three-straight state title game appearances and two state titles in that run.

However, they hope their defense keeps Robertson from putting up impressive numbers of their own. Post Ashley Moore leads Class 3A in scoring with 24 points per game, while guard Jessica Armijo has added 17 per contest.

“Robertson’s good,” Gomez said. “They have two players that are scoring machines, but I hope we’ll be able to make a difference on that.”

Although Portales has four players — sophomore post Morgan Hill and senior guards Roni Gomez, Kassandra Richards and Erika Cook — that are capable of scoring 20 on any given night, the feeling is that defense will determine Portales’ destiny.

“We’ve got to do our defense,” junior Patty Terry said. “With our defense, our offense will come.”

Terry, the only junior on a team that loses four seniors, is hoping to use her first state tournament as experience for next season.

“I look up to Roni (and the other seniors),” Terry said, “and I try to teach the younger ones.”

On the other side of the bracket are Pojoaque (19-11) and Socorro (23-5).

Socorro, in the state tournament for the second-straight year, and knocked Lovington with a 54-41 win. However, Gomez felt that a poor Lovington start helped Socorro and she expects the Lady Warriors to have a close game with Pojoaque despite the difference in records.

Portales may have some concerns if it gets into a state title matchup with Pojoaque. The Lady Rams barely excaped Pojoaque with a 39-37 win in last year’s regionals, needing a few missed free throws and an 8-0 run to close the game.

“They have a couple of post players that are pretty big,” Gomez said of the Lady Elks. “I think they will be looking for some revenge.”

Of all the numbers thrown out by Portales and its opponents, the most impressive might be four, the number of losses for the Lady Rams this season. Portales’ losses came to Class 5A semifinalists Clovis (0-3 record) and Rio Rancho (1-1 record).

“We’ve been in some hard tournaments and played some fast teams,” Gomez said. “We’ve seen it all.”

Portales won the Lady Horsemen Invitational, and finished second in both the Mel Otero Invitational (Rio Rancho) and the Plateu Classic (Clovis). Gomez hopes the experience against bigger teams will help the Lady Rams in a 3A bracket that has little tournament experience.

Of the four teams in the 3A bracket, Portales is the only team that has been in the last three state tournaments. Socorro was eliminated by Lovington in last year’s semifinals, while Robertson and Pojoaque were eliminated in the regionals.