ALBUQUERQUE — Portales needed perfection. Pojoaque got it.
Jackie Bartleson had 15 points and nine rebounds, and anchored an Elkette defense that stopped any and all comers this season, most recently Portales in a 44-38 win to claim the Class 3A championship Friday night at The Pit.
Pojoaque (31-0) never trailed, led by as much as 14, and held off a late Lady Ram charge en route to its second straight 3A title and the first perfect girls season since Clovis’ 30-0 effort in 2005.
“I’ve won state championships before, but going undefeated is the best,” said senior guard Janelle Roybal, who added 10 points in the matchup of 3A powers. Portales made its eighth Class 3A title game appearance in nine seasons.
With the large frame of the 6-foot-2 Bartleson manning the paint, the other Elkette defenders guarded Portales’ perimeter players tightly with no fear of being beaten off the dribble.
“With Jackie back there in the paint, it does give us a sense of composure,” Pojoaque coach Jared Lanse said. “But more importantly, it’s our communication on the floor. It’s our sixth man out there.”
Five defenders were more than enough to stop Portales, which had a hard time finding offensive flow and finished 13-of-45 from the field — compared to 58 percent shooting for the Elkettes.
Senior guard Tara Johnson, who led Portales with 11 points, said it wasn’t a pleasant idea driving to the basket against Bartleson.
“(My coach) told me to go (to the basket), so I did,” Johnson said. “I kept driving in, afraid she was going to swat me.”
Portales (21-11) had a fighting chance with a 22-17 halftime deficit — no small feat against a Pojoaque team that had finished only two games with single-digit margins. But Portales missed its first 10 shots in a three-point third quarter, followed by a 3:22 stretch where Pojoaque played even despite having Bartleson on the bench with three fouls.
“Our team is used to that from all season,” Bartleson said. “Coach puts us in situations where he puts in our younger players.”
Bartleson came back in the fourth quarter and converted a three-point play, then Roybal hit a baseline jumper to give the Elkettes their biggest lead at 41-23.
“They’re a really good team,” Portales coach Clay Stout said. “Especially in the third quarter, we got so out of sync. Credit them for that.
“You start getting out of rhythm. Getting the rhythm back is so tough in this setting. If you do something here, it gets magnified.”
Portales put a little fear into Pojoaque in the final three minutes, when Dallas Russell, Ashley Hernandez and Tayler Lucero hit consecutive 3-pointers to cut the lead to six. But Portales didn’t score again until Johnson hit a 3-pointer in the final seconds.
Bartleson transferred from Santa Fe High last year and was unsure how she’d fit in with an Elkette squad that didn’t need her to win a title. But she said they accepted her, and she became the final piece to perfection.
“I was freaking out and hoping the girls would accept me,” Bartleson said. “Summer basketball season came, and we just clicked.”
Stout liked his team’s chemistry as well.
“They’re the best group of kids I’ve every been around,” Stout said. “Our girls play with class and integrity.”
Pojoaque 44, Portales 38
Portales (21-11) — Tara Johnson 4-12 2-3 11, Dallas Russell 2-4 3-5 8, Macy Mitchell 3-8 1-2 7, Tayler Lucero 2-3 0-0 6, Ashley Hernandez 1-6 0-0 3, Jenna Wagner 1-6 0-0 2, Gabby Garcia 0-6 1-2 1, Totals 13-45 7-12 38.
Pojoaque (31-0) — Jackie Bartleson 6-7 3-4 15, Janelle Roybal 5-8 0-0 10, Ellen Cruz 3-7 1-2 7, Nicole Gonzales 2-4 1-2 5, Marissa Romero 1-2 0-0 3, Audrey Smith 0-0 0-0 0, Totals 19-33 5-8 44.
Portales 5 12 3 18 — 38
Pojoaque 10 12 12 10 — 44
3-pointers — Portales 5-15 (Lucero 2-3, Russell 1-2, Johnson 1-3, Hernandez 1-6, Wagner 0-1), Pojoaque 1-4 (Romero 1-2, Montoya 0-2). Rebounds — Portales 28 (Wagner 6), Pojoaque 26 (Cruz, Bartleson 9). Total fouls — Portales 14, Pojoaque 13. Fouled out — Russell.