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Portales says Valley no easy out

Five area teams qualify for state tournament


Last updated 3/3/2020 at 4:53pm

PORTALES — If nothing else, the Valley Vikings figure to be a bit out of their element in Friday’s 6 p.m. Class 4A round-of-16 girls state tournament game against Portales High at the Ram Athletic Center — it’s the first time in 29 games that they’ll be playing outside the Albuquerque metro area.

The next step for the third-seeded Lady Rams (20-7) is to make the Vikings uncomfortable at what they like to do, which is shooting 3-pointers.

PHS girls coach Wade Fraze said Valley (17-11) is a scary No. 14 seed.

“They may be the best 14 seed I’ve ever seen,” Fraze said. “They’ve got eight players who can all hit 3s.”

All girls round-of-16 games are scheduled for Friday, with winners advancing to quarterfinal play at The Pit in Albuquerque (Classes 4A and 5A) and Santa Ana Star Center at Rio Rancho (Classes 2A and 3A) on Tuesday, and Bernalillo H.S. on Wednesday (Class 1A).

The Portales-Valley winner will face either No. 6 Bernalillo or No. 11 Grants in an 8 a.m. Tuesday quarterfinal.

Valley finished in a tie for second with Bernalillo in district play at 7-3, two games behind Highland.

Junior guard Gillian Roybal leads the Vikings at 12.8 ppg, and is easily their most prolific 3-point shooter at 35 percent (81-of-232). Junior forward Mariah Vigil and senior guard Destiny Maes-Sisneros can also have success beyond the arc.

Fraze said playing solid defense is as much a key as anything for his squad.

“I think they can be pressured,” he said. “If we play good defense, that can bother them. But we’ll have to come to play, because any team that can shoot like they can will be tough.”

Also on Friday, Texico (13-10) has the No. 6 seed in Class 2A and entertains District 7-2A rival and 11th-seeded Clayton (15-13) at 6 p.m.. In Class 1A games, second-seeded Melrose (23-4) welcomes 15th seed Cliff (10-15) at 7 p.m., while No. 16 Dora (9-14) travels to top-seeded defending champion Logan (22-4) and No. 11 Clovis Christian (15-12) goes to No. 6 Gateway Christian (21-4) in 6 p.m. contests.

Texico and Melrose both have strong recent histories in state competition, but early on Lady Wolverines coach Richard Luscombe wasn’t sure what to expect from his squad, which lost its first three games and five of its first seven.

Texico had the No. 1 seed in 2A last year, but lost in the second round to eighth-seeded Mescalero 47-46. The Lady Wolverines have won four state titles since 2012, the last three in Class 3A, and have reached the state finals six times in that period.

Luscombe isn’t especially thrilled to open against a district rival, although it’s a series Texico has dominated for some time.

“Basically, it comes down to how kids perform,” Luscombe said. “I don’t feel like we’ve played our best against them yet, so maybe we’ll get after them.”

Luscombe said the Lady Wolverines are playing better in part because they have players back from injury, and the team is as healthy now as it has been all season.

Melrose is looking to reach its sixth consecutive state final and eighth in nine years in either Class 1A or 2A. The Lady Buffs have won three championships in that time, including back-to-back 2A titles in 2015 and 2016, but have dropped the last three title matches in 1A.

They shouldn’t have much trouble with the Cowgirls, whom they drubbed 57-30 in a mid-season tournament at Reserve.

As with Texico, Melrose coach Caleb King said his team, which beat Logan for the first time in four meetings last weekend to claim the District 6-1A tourney title, has been dealing with some bumps and bruises, but enters this weekend in good shape.

“It’s one of those things where you have to play four good games (to win it),” he said. “One of the things that helped us is finally getting healthy.”

The Lady Buffs are also motivated by the three runnerup finishes, King said.

“We’re just going to have to play consistently, play good defense every game,” he said. “(The players) know what they have to do. It’s a matter of going out and getting it done.”

The top three seeds in 1A are all from District 6, with Fort Sumner (19-9) seeded third.


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