After winning a regular-season playoff with Lovington earlier this week, the Wildcats came into the Ram Athletic Center Saturday night and swiped the District 4-3A tournament trophy from the Portales Rams with a 48-36 decision.
In the first game of the night, the top-seeded Lady Rams took care of business, beating Lovington 43-40, but not before the Lady Cats threw a fourth-quarter scare into Portales.
The Lady Rams (16-7) led 26-18 after three quarters and posted their biggest lead of the night with 4:54 left to play as senior Gabby Garcia drove the lane to make it 31-19.
Lovington (17-7) wasn’t done yet as junior guard Mystica Perez poured in 14 of her game-high 21 points in the fourth period. Included in that total was a 6-of-9 from the line in the waning minutes.
On the other side of the coin, Portales missed 18 free throws, many late in the game, and finished 14-of-32 from the line.
“Mystica (Perez) is hard to guard but we haven’t shot free throws this bad in a long time,” Portales coach Clay Stout said. “This bunch (Lady Rams) can shoot free throws too. It was just one of those nights.”
The only Portales player knocking down the free throws was junior Emily Roberts, who went 6-for-9, including four in a row late in the game.
Post Macy Mitchell had a good night and lifted Portales with six of its eight third-quarter points. The junior finished with 17 points to lead Portales. Stout said that not much else was going right with his offense.
“I was disappointed we didn’t play under more control,” Stout said. “A lot of times when the shots aren’t falling, sometimes you rush things. We didn’t deal with it as well as we should have.”
Lovington 48, Portales 36 — Lovington controlled the tempo and the lead nearly throughout Saturday’s contest.
Ram senior Stephen Shields made an amazing spinning layup in traffic midway through the second quarter to cut the Cat lead to 16-15. Then senior Jesse Blue hit a bucket in the paint to make it 18-16 with 1:56 to play in the half.
The lead was short-lived as Lovington senior Robert Perez drained a buzzer-beater 3-pointer to give Lovington a 22-18 halftime advantage.
Perez put Lovington up 35-25 with a jumper at the end of the third period. But Portales came back with unanswered 3-pointers from Blue and senior Andrew Villanueva to cut the Cat lead to four points.
But Perez finished with seven points in the fourth to lift his team to the title.
“We played their game tonight,” Portales coach Mark Gallegos said. “They hustled back into their 2-3 zone. Our goal was to outrun them, but we didn’t get that done. We had three defensive stops in a row (in the fourth quarter) and we didn’t convert on any of them.”
Perez led all scorers with 16 points and senior Jaden Swenson added 14.
Portales failed to put anyone in double figures with Shields and senior Miguel Vasquez each scoring nine each.
Seeding for the 16-team state tournament brackets will be completed today. Both Portales coaches expect to get a home game, which go to the top eight seeds.
Asked to speculate how his team would fair in the seeding, Gallegos feared his team would likely drop to a sixth or seventh seed with the loss.
“That means we’re going to draw a really tough opponent here at the RAC on Saturday,” Gallegos said.