Portales senior Morgan Hill fueled a strong start by the Lady Rams by scored 10 of her-team high 16 points in the first half. (CNJ staff photo: Rick White)
By Jesse Wolfersberger: CNJ staff writer
ALBUQUERQUE — As Portales’ players lined up to receive their medals for winning the Class 3A girls state tournament on Friday night, the PA announcer started calling names from the wrong team.
It turns out, he’s not the only one who got the two teams mixed up.
Motivated by the state seeding committee thinking they were second-best, the Lady Rams dominated top-seeded Socorro 58-35 on Friday at The Pit to capture their fourth state title in six years.
“We were like, ‘Let’s go out there and show ’em who is No. 1,’” senior Morgan Hill said. “And I think we did.”
Hill led Portales with 16 points and nine boards. Junior Briana Hernandez scored 13 and senior Megan Kabrick added 12 for the Lady Rams (24-6).
Portales coach Brenda Gomez was asked if she felt disrespected by being seeded second.
“Yes, I think we all did,” she said.
Socorro’s 5-foot-10 go-to senior, Audra Major, was noticeably limping on an injured ankle, but gutted out 20 points and 10 boards to lead the Lady Warriors (29-2).
“I didn’t feel like 100 percent,” Major said. “But that’s no excuse.”
Socorro coach Joseph Garcia said his team would have been in trouble even with a completely healthy Major.
“She would had to have scored 46 points to beat ’em,” Garcia said. “She scored 20 and we lost by 26 (actually 23). So I don’t think that made much difference.”
Despite the limp, Hill said she did not lessen any of her expectations when matching up with Socorro’s star senior.
“I knew that I still had to play hard against her because she is a very, very good offensive player,” Hill said. “No matter what, I knew she was going to score and I needed to work hard.”
Hill picked up a fourth foul early in the third quarter, and sat on the bench until the fourth.
“Foul trouble — that’s been Morgan’s middle name,” Gomez laughed.
While Hill was out, sophomore Bethany Self stepped in and slowed down Major inside, and Hernandez hit two 3-pointers to make sure the Lady Warriors did not cut into Portales’ 13-point halftime lead.
In the quarterfinals and semifinals, Socorro held both opponents to less than 30 percent shooting from the floor.
“What got us here was our defense,” Garcia said. “And we just had a hard time matching up with them today. They had the inside and outside package.”
The Lady Rams shot 58 percent in the game.
Gomez said she was surprised the Lady Warriors tried to play zone defense against her team.
“I think it’d be very tough to play us in a zone,” Gomez said. “It’s just too hard to cover 3-point shooters who shoot 50, 60 percent.”
Considering her team had not lost to a Class 3A opponent this season and had beat larger schools, including Class 5A Gallup which has reached the state finals in that class, Gomez said it was just a mistake that her team was not the tourney’s top seed.
“I think the seeding is great,” she said. “But we’ve got to consider all of it, maybe even take out the human element and put in the power ratings.”
In what was her fifth state title run, Gomez said this trip was less stressful than usual.
“This time was the most relaxing,” she said. “I didn’t lose 10 pounds and I slept a little bit. I just felt confident enough. When you have kids like I have, I’d take on anybody.”
Friday was the last game for senior starters Hill, Kabrick and Ashleah Richards, who finished their prep careers with three state titles.
Self said that trio, plus reserve Rebekah Gonzales, were the heart and soul of the team.
“I can’t even describe it,” Self said. “They are very key players and they get everyone up. It’s going to be very hard to fill their spots.”