When you’ve already lost to a team by 28 points, as Lovington had to Portales twice, taking a different approach makes sense.
But Lovington’s game of stall-ball didn’t quite work out, as Portales never trailed in a 25-17 win to claim its sixth consecutive District 4-3A championship and 19th in 21 seasons.
Macy Mitchell scored eight points to lead Portales (16-8), which held Lovington without a field goal for the first 11:40 and scoreless for a 10:38 stretch in the second half.
Now, Portales sits and hopes a schedule full of losses to Class 4A and 5A opponents is enough to get last year’s Class 3A runnerup this year’s No. 1 seed.
“I have no idea,” Portales coach Clay Stout said. “Who knows what’s going to happen?”
Lovington had some indication of what would happen Friday night, as they held the ball for minute-long stretches to open the contest.
“We're not good when we play against them, because they play such good collapsing defense,” said Black, whose Lady Wildcats (24-5) have now taken three losses at the hands of Portales. “We tried to pull them out.”
Black said turnovers hurt his team, and the style also hurt his depth, as he expressed regret some of his players never got off the bench.
“I don't like playing that way,” Black said, “but it was the best way to try to get a win.”
Stout said Portales was used to playing that style over the last few weeks, as they’ve been trying to nurse a litany of injuries.
“They made no bones about it,” Stout said. “They were going to pull it out and make us come get them.”
And from there, it was on Portales to just be efficient on offense.
“Coach tells us part of our defense is not turning the ball over,” said senior Portales guard Alexis Orcutt, who scored four points. “That was the time where I thought we weren’t playing our game. Once we stopped turning the ball over, I felt like we got more in sync.”
Orcutt was injured on a hard foul on a layup in the final six seconds of the game, but said she should be fine for Portales’ first-round playoff game.
Mystica Perez scored six of her team-high eight points in the final 1:48 of regulation, but Lovington never got closer than five points in the fourth quarter.
Black said he hopes his team will get a seed between fourth and sixth, and hopes the seeding committee takes into account that Lovington had Class 3A’s best record despite playing their final 10 games without Kenzie Black, who leads the team in points, rebounds and assists.
Black was suspended for violating teams rules but is expected to return for the playoffs.