The Eastern New Mexico News - Serving Clovis, Portales and the Surrounding Communities

Comeback puts Rams back on top

Portales' 50-39 win gives school eighth title, first as Class 4A team

 

March 10, 2018

Christopher Cook

The Portales Rams celebrate after the final horn sounds on their 50-39 victory over Moriarty. Portales closed out the season with 19 straight wins.

ALBUQUERQUE - Winning a state championship is hard-fought and hard-earned over an entire season.

For the Portales girls basketball team it was both of those in Friday's 4A state championship game. At Albuquerque's Dreamstyle Arena, the Lady Rams fought back from a seven-point third-quarter deficit and beat district rival Moriarty 50-39.

When trailing so far into the game, they didn't panic, didn't flinch. They seized control and seized a blue trophy in the process.

"I don't know if words can describe it right now," Portales head coach Wade Fraze said with red and moist eyes. "We've been here before, we've come up short a couple of times. It's extra special this year; my daughter (Kelly Fraze) is a senior, so it's a good way for her to go out. And all these seniors, these kids have grown up together. So this one, it's real special because I've seen these kids since they were tiny little girls growing up and playing together. So it's not just one daughter, there's a bunch of daughters."

"It's just an amazing experience," Portales senior Lindsay Blakey said. "I couldn't ask for anything else. Getting to play with these girls; I wouldn't want to play with anyone else."

"The seniors and a couple others have played together since we were seven years old," Kelly Fraze said. "Going to all the AAU tournaments all year long and just hanging out all the time. It's like going out with a bang."

"It means we're the best in 4A," Lady Rams junior Taylee Rippee said. "It's awesome."

Portales wrapped up its state championship season at 28-2, and closed out the season with 19 straight wins.

But well into Friday's third quarter, it seemed like the Lady Rams might be close to concluding a state finalist season. They trailed 31-24, not a huge hole to climb from, but a hole nonetheless. Rippee started the climbing with five straight points - a two-pointer and a trey - that made it 31-29, and after a fast-break layup from Moriarty's Stephanie Ordonez put her team up by four, Rippee scored again to bring the Rams within 33-31.

With 1:05 left in the third, Blakey sank a pair of free throws that tied the game, and with less than 10 seconds to go in the quarter, Portales went ahead for the first time since the early going. It was a play where teamwork was clearly on display, as Blakey was covered on the right block so she alertly sent a bounce pass to Rippee, who then scored on the left, allowing the Lady Rams to carry a 35-33 edge into the fourth quarter.

Portales opened the fourth with six straight points in the form of two Fraze treys, one from the left elbow, the other from the top of the key, giving her team a 41-33 advantage. They were Fraze's only points of the contest.

A jumper by Alyssa Adams brought Moriarty within six (41-35), and after an exchange of baskets it was six again (43-37).

A Rippee shot bounced home to put the Rams up by eight, and two free throws by Zamorye Cox made it a 47-37 game, Portales' first double-digit lead of the afternoon. Moriarty never seriously threatened after that.

Christopher Cook

Senior Zamorye Cox drives the lane. Cox scored 11 points on the afternoon.

"We needed to make something happen," Coach Fraze said. "We hadn't made anything, things were a struggle. And Moriarty came to play, they really did. This is the fourth time we've played them. They're a great team, and it gets harder and harder to beat a great team."

Portales, though, has now beaten that 'great team' four times this season, twice in the regular season, and then once each in the district championship game and Friday's state title game.

That Moriarty team walked away with an impressive 27-5 record and much to be proud of.

"We talked about belief coming into the game," Lady Pintos head coach Joe Bailey said, "and I think we showed that. We showed that fight, the girls played their hearts out."

It is the eighth championship in school history and the second under Fraze, now five years into his head coaching tenure with Portales.

 

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