ROSWELL — The Portales Rams earned homecourt advantage Tuesday night for this week’s District 4-3A tournament.
More importantly, they earned a little rest.
Coming off back-to-back three-game weeks, PHS rode a big second quarter to a 60-55 victory over rival Lovington in a playoff at New Mexico Military Institute for the top seed in this week’s three-team tournament.
Lovington (13-12) will host Ruidoso in a 7 p.m. semifinal game on Saturday. The Rams (17-8) get the winner on Saturday at home, with the time to be determined.
By winning the regular-season district title, the Rams are assured a berth in the 16-team Class 3A state tournament.
“The big thing for us is the rest part,” PHS coach Mark Gallegos said. “We had some guys a little under the weather tonight.”
Seniors Andrew Villanueva and Jesse Blue each hit two free throws in the closing seconds after the Wildcats pared a 12-point deficit late in the third quarter to one.
“We couldn’t put them away but we made free throws,” Gallegos said. “We got tired at the end, but we got stops when we had to.”
Villanueva finished with three 3-pointers and 17 points while Blue had 13 points, Miguel Vasquez 12 and Phoenix Russell 11 for Portales.
Senior guard Robert Perez kept the Wildcats in the game with four 3-pointers and 26 points, while Jaden Swenson added 10 points.
Both teams had 18 field goals, including six 3-pointers. The difference came at the free throw line, where the Rams went 18-of-24 to Lovington’s 13-of-21.
Vasquez scored eight points and had a couple of assists and Blue added seven points as Portales outscored Lovington 22-7, opening a 34-23 halftime lead. The Rams led 45-35 going into the final period.
“Miguel Vasquez was our catalyst in the first half,” Gallegos said. “He was getting to the bucket, and when he didn’t get a shot off he made some nice passes.”
Russell led the Rams on the boards with seven rebounds.