Dave Wagner: Freedom Newspapers
The Portales Lady Rams nearly survived 21 turnovers — against only six for Carlsbad.
Instead, the Cavegirls overcame major scoring droughts at the beginning of both halves, finally pulling out a 37-33 victory in the Lady Rams’ season opener Tuesday night at the PHS gym.
Junior guard Carolyn Smith was the difference for Carlsbad (2-0) with 19 points, including a 3-point play and a game-clinching 3-point basket — her fourth of the night — in the final two minutes to help bring the Cavegirls back from a 32-31 deficit.
Carlsbad missed its first nine shots to start the game, then went 0-for-17 after halftime before Smith banged in a 3-pointer with 6:25 left to give the Cavegirls a 28-27 lead.
Portales led 4-0 when Cavegirls senior Tyrie Graham hit a 3-pointer with 3:46 left in the opening quarter. That started a 15-point run that carried two minutes into the second stanza.
Portales coach Brenda Gomez said with several new players on her squad, she was trying different combinations.
“That’s why you play these (early) games,” she said. “You want to get better and know what you have to work on. We’ll get there.”
The Cavegirls, who beat Las Cruces Onate 48-30 at home in their opener, shot only 20 percent from the floor on 12-of-61. But half of their field goals were 3-pointers.
“We had open looks; we just weren’t hitting them,” Carlsbad coach Steve Garza said. “Finally we got it going a little bit.
“It’s a quality win when you come up here and beat a back-to-back (Class 3A) state champion. I’m proud of our kids. I thought we did a good job defending in the post.”
Down by eight points at halftime, the Lady Rams blanked Carlsbad in the third quarter and opened a 27-23 lead on senior guard Patty Terry’s second 3-pointer of the game with 1:10 left.
The Cavegirls scored the first eight points of the final period, but PHS rallied back for a 1-point lead on two free throws and a 3-pointer by junior Megan Kabrick, who finished with a team-high eight points.
Smith’s 3-point play with 1:41 left put Carlsbad in front for good, and she then stole an outlet pass and sank a 3-pointer with 17 seconds left for the game’s final points.
“She came up with the big 3-pointer (early in the quarter), and then came up with a big steal at the end,” Garza said of Smith. “She took a bad shot there, but it went in.”
Junior post Morgan Hill towered over the Cavegirls inside. The 6-foot-1 Hill managed six points and finished with 16 rebounds and a bevy of blocked shots.
“She made a lot of stops in the paint,” Gomez said. “If we get her the ball in the post, I think she’ll be able to score.”
Freshman post Bethany Self and eighth grader Tara Johnson, a guard, made their varsity debuts. Both had their moments, Self collecting seven rebounds and three points while Johnson had five rebounds and three of the Lady Rams’ seven assists.
Gomez is looking for someone to take control of the point guard position.
“For the most part, the kids we had out there did all right and will get better,” she said. “I see a lot of potential there.”