ALBUQUERQUE -- Nothing against last year's Pojoaque and St. Micheal's squads, but their 2008 state championship game wasn't something Dallas Russell enjoyed.
"It was awful watching that championship game," the senior Portales guard said. "It was really hard for me, not being in it."
One year later, Russell and Portales have the show they want, as they earned their eighth Class 3A title game appearance in nine seasons following Thursday's 56-48 semifinal win over Las Vegas Robertson at The Pit.
The win sets up Portales in Friday's 6 p.m. title game against the winner of Thursday's Pojoaque-St. Michael's rematch.
Seeded second, Portales (20-10) trailed early against a disciplined Cardinals squad, but took over matters by holding Robertson without a field goal for a 10:06 stretch bridging the first and second half, and dominated on the boards.
"It's a big goal for us to get more rebounds than the other team," said sophomore forward Gabby Garcia, who pulled down a team-high nine rebounds to go with 13 points.
Portales staked a 36-23 advantage on the boards, compounding problems for No. 11 Robertson (15-16), which shot 14-of-44 from the field.
"We were getting killed on the boards, and we got in a little bit of foul trouble," said Robertson coach Aunna Roanhaus. "Portales did a good job of adjusting to our early presses."
The pressure created five first-quarter turnovers, and Robertson took an 18-12 lead on Kimberly Mares' 3-pointer with 7:05 left in the second. But the Cardinals went cold, and Garcia and Tara Johnson took over from there. Garcia tied matters at 21 with a three-point play on a putback with 2:15 to go, and a putback by Johnson on the ensuing possession gave Portales (21-10) the lead for good.
Johnson finished with 14 to lead Portales.
Portales coach Clay Stout gave credit to the bench for holding the Robertson lead down early when posts Jenna Wagner and Macy Mitchell each picked up two first-quarter fouls, and to the entire team for not getting frustrated by the Robertson press early on.
"They've got a good press, but we were doing it to ourselves too," Stout said. "We didn't have our passing lanes filled."
Once Portales improved its ball movement, Robertson had its own foul trouble and gave up too many offensive rebounds to stop the Ram momentum.
"In the second quarter, we had some trouble," Robertson guard Daniella Montoya said. "We didn't have Brooke (Knezevich, 15 points) out there, and she's a big asset. We didn't block them out and couldn't keep them off the boards."
Mitchell had 13 points for Portales, and Kassandra Tapia posted a double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds for Robertson.
Portales has won four titles since 2001, the last in 2006.