Moriarty High School’s girls basketball team gave everything it had during Tuesday’s Class 4A state quarterfinals against the No. 4 Portales Lady Rams. But the Lady Pintos’ season ran out of gas as Portales pulled away with the 35-31 victory at WisePies Arena, aka The Pit.
“We played as hard as we could but they’re the most aggressive team we’ve played all season,” Alyssa Adams said of the Lady Rams. Adams led Moriarty with 10 points.
Emerald Russell’s opening basket gave the Lady Pintos an early 2-0 advantage—their only lead of the game. She chipped in 8 points. “I think we came in pretty confident, and when Emerald hit that layup we were real excited to get going,” Emily Gonzales said.
But the fifth-seeded Pintos found themselves playing catch-up the rest of the way.
Trailing 9-8 with a minute left in the first quarter, Moriarty went on a 6-minute scoring drought that lasted until 3 minutes before halftime.
Russell’s jumper with 1:10 before intermission pulled the Pintos within 2 points, but Portales pushed the lead back to 6 points at the break.
Adams hit a pair of fourth-quarter 3-pointers—each one pulling the Lady Pintos within striking distance—but it wasn’t enough. Portales’ head coach Wade Fraze acknowledged Adams as “one of the top players in the state,” adding, “All she needs is an inch of daylight.”
“Let’s give Portales credit,” said Moriarty’s head coach Joe Bailey. “We played great defense, we had our chances, we just didn’t have enough offense.”
The Lady Pintos advanced to the quarterfinals by dispatching the No. 12 Hatch Valley Lady Bears 49-41 last Friday at home in the first round of the state tournament. Moriarty led the entire game but Hatch Valley (20-9, 6-5 District 3-4A) made it a close contest until the end.
“That’s what Hatch Valley does, it’s not as if we weren’t playing anybody,” Bailey said. “It’s that time of the year, that’s what state tournaments are about.”
Hatch knocked down three consecutive 3-point baskets to make the score 33-32 at the end of the third quarter. “The whole week we’ve been preparing, but I don’t think we came out as mentally prepared as we should have, they’re pretty good,” Russell said. She chipped in 12 points during the game.
With 4 minutes left in the game, Adams nailed her third 3-pointer, Russell and Lydia Schmutz sank back-to-back layups, and the Lady Pintos hit four-straight free throws to seal the victory.
“I think we did a good job of staying composed at the end,” Adams said.
Bailey said all his players had practiced hard all week learning Hatch Valley’s offense. “Even the kids who came in the last few minutes of the game knew exactly what to expect, that was a big key for us.”
With the season-ending loss to Portales, the Lady Pintos finished with a 19-8 record, and their second-consecutive trip to the quarterfinals in The Pit.
During the postgame interview at The Pit, two of Moriarty’s seniors summed up their final game as Lady Pintos. “I feel heartbroken,” Emily Gonzales admitted. “I think this is one of the best teams Moriarty has had in a long time,” added Alyssa Sauter.
Bailey responded by acknowledging, “I couldn’t be prouder of all of them.”