Feb. 10—LOVINGTON — Lovington's girls had lost four of their previous six games coming in, but everyone agrees the Lady Wildcats have their best team in some time.
Buoyed by a strong first half, Lovington created a three-way tie at the top in District 4-4A on Friday with a 57-46 victory over Portales High.
The Lady Wildcats (15-8, 2-1 district) scored 36 first-half points and never looked back.
"We just didn't come ready to play," Lady Rams coach Wade Fraze said. "We didn't play good defense in the first half."
Portales' comeback bid was hampered by foul trouble as senior guard Audrey Paden and junior guard Angel Ornelas fouled out in the fourth quarter.
Senior guard Liz Buendia led the charge for the Lady Wildcats with 28 points, while junior forward Aubrey Aranda added 12. Lovington hit 10-of-12 free throws and converted five 3-pointers to two for PHS.
Junior guard Myleigh Banda and junior forward Evannie Fulfer tallied 14 points apiece for PHS (17-6, 2-1), ranked fourth in Class 4A by MaxPreps. Fulfer added six rebounds and four steals, while Ornelas finished with six points, six rebounds, seven assists and six steals.
Portales 53, Artesia 49 (Tuesday) — Banda scored 18 points, including a pair of fourth-quarter 3-pointers which helped the Lady Rams hang on at the RAC.
PHS used a 17-4 run to open a 24-11 advantage midway through the second quarter, capped by Paden's 3-pointer. The Lady Rams maintained the lead the rest of the way, although Artesia (16-6, 2-1 after edging Roswell Goddard 38-35 on Friday night) pulled to 38-37 at the end of the third stanza.
A basket by junior guard Tya Rippee and Banda's first 3 made it 43-37 early in the fourth, and the margin was 53-42 down the stretch before the Lady Bulldogs closed on a 7-0 run, capped by a 3-pointer at the buzzer from sophomore forward Jenna Whitmore.
"We had kids who had been sick and injured, but the girls really came ready to play," Fraze said.
Rippee had a pair of 3s in the first half and finished with 10 points for Portales. Paden combined nine points, eight rebounds, six assists and seven steals while Ornelas totaled six points, eight rebounds, six assists and six steals.
Senior post Lorin Wagner paced Artesia with 17 points, while senior guard Kymber Beltran had 14.