Defense has been the name of the game when Portales has met up with Lovington in girls basketball action this season. With the District 4-3A district title on the line, and both teams quite familiar on how to defend the other, the host Rams were able to squeeze out more points and beat the Lady Wildcats.
Portales (17-10) scored the last seven points of the game, reversing a one-point deficit midway through the fourth period, to pull off a 36-30 win. It was the Lady Rams’ third victory in four meetings with Lovington (20-9).
Both teams will now wait for Sunday to find out where a Class 3A seeding committee will slot them in the upcoming state tournament.
“We’ll just take whatever we can get,” Stout said. “I don’t like speculating. We’ll just see what happens — everything else is guesswork.
“Four out of the last seven games we’ve played, it’s been against Lovington. When you get into district, everybody knows everything about everyone. I think our district’s going to do real well in the playoffs just because you get away from your district opponents.”
A scoring slump in the last quarter for both teams ended when Lovington perfectly executed a fastbreak opportunity and went ahead 30-29 on a shot by Mystica Perez with 3:54 left in the game.
Fifteen seconds later, however, Portales guard Tara Johnson was fouled while driving to the hoop. She hit both of the ensuing foul shots to put the Lady Rams up for good.
Following a miss by Lovington’s Krystal Marquez, Johnson dished a pass to Jenna Wagner for a bucket with three minutes remaining and a 33-30 lead.
Johnson was fighting sickness heading into the contest, but kicked off the scoring in the contest with a 3-pointer.
“My throat hurt me a little bit, but it wasn't going to stop me from playing,” said Johnson, who finished with eight points. “I told the doctor I’m playing. He said, ‘Yes ma’am.’”
With seven seconds left, after twice missing previous chances from the foul line to push the lead past three points, the Lady Rams finally did when Johnson hit a free throw. The final basket of the game came after Johnson missed her second shot and Wagner hit a putback attempt.
Freshman Macy Mitchell led Portales with nine points while Wagner added eight. Kelcey Moore paced Lovington with nine.