The Portales Lady Rams made Pinnacle, Ariz., work hard for its victory on Friday.
Portales stayed with its patient style throughout, but the Lady Rams struggled with Pinnacle’s height and athleticism in the end and dropped a 33-28 decision in the first game of the New Mexico/Arizona Challenge at Rock Staubus Gym in Clovis.
Senior guard J.J. Alli and freshman guard Syd Wiese did most of the damage for the Lady Pioneers (12-5), the Arizona state runnersup in Division 5A II last season. They each scored 14 points and combined for five 3-pointers.
Pinnacle played a 2-3 zone in the first quarter, but went man-to-man with pressure for most of the rest of the game.
“It wasn’t our best game,” Alli said. “They were really a disciplined team, and they made us tired. I think we were on defense one time for like 2 1/2 minutes.”
Alli’s 3-pointer with nearly three minutes gone broke the scoring ice, but Pinnacle didn’t score again in the period and the Lady Rams took a 6-3 lead after eight minutes on senior guard Alexis Orcutt’s buzzer-beating 3-pointer.
“We wanted to see how we would do guarding their smaller players,” Alli said. “The second quarter, with the low score, we felt we just had to get more aggressive.”
Wiese, held out in the first quarter by coach Jackie Clayton, and Alli hit back-to-back 3-pointers to put the Lady Pioneers up 17-13 late in the half. Portales (6-4) kept it close, though, until the final minutes.
The left-handed Wiese’s 3-pointer from the right wing with 6:40 left put Pinnacle ahead for good 27-24, and the Lady Pioneers extended the lead to seven in the final 1:20 with two free throws each from Wiese and senior Tori Scheaffer.
Part of the reason for the zone, Clayton said, was that the Lady Pioneers were down two guards to injury.
“Our two guards (seniors Kacie Donovan and Libby Valentine) were out, and our big girl (6-foot-5 junior Aley Rohde) got into foul trouble,” Clayton said. “We had quite a bit of our offense not show up today.”
Sophomore post Macy Mitchell was scoreless in the first and fourth quarters, but accounted for all 16 Lady Rams points in the middle two stanzas.
PHS coach Clay Stout said Pinnacle’s traps on defense caused problems.
“I didn’t think we did near as good a job as we should have finding people against the traps,” he said. “Offensively we weren’t really in sync, but they’re a hard matchup for us.”