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Lovington shocks Portales in 4-4A opener

Portales awaits bracket, hopeful for berth


March 1, 2020

PORTALES — Rickie McBroom was at a bit of a loss for words.

In a game where his Portales High boys squad led most of the way, including by 15 points in the second quarter, things got away late and the Rams dropped a 60-58 decision to Lovington on Tuesday night in the opening game of the District 4-4A tournament at the Ram Athletic Center.

With the contest tied in the closing seconds, the Rams appeared to secure a defensive rebound with time to advance it, but Lovington senior guard Chris Perez poked the ball loose and converted a short bank shot from the lane with three seconds left. A last-second Rams attempt was unsuccessful.

It left PHS (10-17), seeded third ahead of Lovington in the four-team meet, hanging in terms of a possible Class 4A state tournament berth. The Rams will learn their fate today.

“It’s out of our hands now,” McBroom said. “All we can do is sit back and wait.”

On Thursday night, the Wildcats (15-12) defeated second-seeded Roswell Goddard 56-45 to advance to Saturday’s championship tilt at top-seeded Artesia.

Portales was clicking early, using a 13-2 run to gain control in the opening frame and extending the margin to 34-19 with nine unanswered points midway through the second period.

The game turned back at that point.

“We came out ready to play,” McBroom said. “But we didn’t rebound very well in the second quarter, and that allowed them to cut into our lead.”

Lovington (14-12) closed the half on a 9-2 run to get back in striking distance, then took its first lead since the opening minute on a basket by 6-foot-5 senior center Kobe Salcido with 3:22 left in the third period.

“We started getting a little rhythm,” Wildcats coach Casey Pack said. “That’s the key on anything, either offensively or defensively.”

It looked like momentum might completely shift Lovington’s way when Wildcats junior Jared Jeffrey launched a desperation 3-point basket from just beyond halfcourt as the third stanza expired, stretching the lead to 49-45.

The margin grew to 54-47 early in the fourth before the Rams mounted a comeback, tying the game twice in the final two minutes before Perez won it late.

“My point guard made the key play of the game,” Pack said.

Perez finished with 14 points for Lovington, while Jeffrey had 13 and Salcido and sophomore Tayten Hilliard added 11 apiece. Lovington committed nine turnovers in the first half, but just two over the final two stanzas.

For the Rams, senior guards Kellan Hightower and Rico Diaz scored 20 and 13, respectively, while junior forward Josiah Tellez had 10. But PHS had eight of its 13 turnovers in the second half, including five in the final segment.

“I love our kids; they played hard,” McBroom said. “But something we’ve got to work on is our decision-making.”

Portales finished with a 34-25 edge on the boards, led by junior Kenevan Bailey with 11 rebounds.


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