Rio Rancho senior Julia Espinosa (35) owned the paint Thursday afternoon, when the Rams tipped off the Rio Rancho Invite with a 10-point victory over Grants. (Herron photo)

If you must lose a game in your own tournament, maybe it’s easier to lose to a former player and her team.

Such was the case Saturday, when St. Pius X High School – coached by former Ram and two-time Gatorade Player of the Year in the state Brio Rode – downed the Rams 47-42.

Each team had lost in the Friday semifinals by five or fewer points, showing the equality of the tournament.

Next year, it will revert to a previous name: the Mel Otero Invitational, and still honor – as it did this time – local basketball officials.

Sartans 47, Rams 42: St. Pius’s victory came about with its 20-10 fourth-quarter advantage.

The Rams (5-3) led by five at halftime, 24-19, and maintained that lead after each team scored 8 points in the third period.

The Sartans (5-3) finished with three 3s, while the Rams had none, and had eight more points at the foul line than the Rams.

Makenna Lee had a game-high 17 points to lead the Rams.

Organ Mountain 44, Rams 40: The Lady Knights held a 27-24 edge at halftime, then a 36-24 advantage through three periods. When the teams played evenly, 8-8, in the final quarter, Organ Mountain found itself in the tournament’s title tilt, which it won, 55-47, over its District 3-5A foe, Las Cruces.

Rams 55, Grants 28: The story line for this game was written early, as senior Julia Espinosa basically had her way in the paint, taking hard-to-miss short shots and, if she missed, grabbing the rebound for a putback.

By the end of the opening quarter in the Rams’ first-round game, she had 10 points, and Grants had 3.

Nine points in the second quarter gave her 19 by halftime, while the Lady Pirates had 11.

Playing sparingly in the third period, with just 2 points, Espinosa still led Grants 23-15 after it ended.

With Espinosa back on the bench – not in foul trouble, but having already caused enough damage – Grants finally managed to have more points than Espinosa with about five minutes remaining in regulation, 23-21.

Surprise: Espinosa re-entered and added two field goals, but missed two free throws, in a short stint on the floor in the fourth period to take the lead again.

With 2:44 left in regulation, Grants surpassed Espinosa, who finished with a career-high 25 points. Her previous best had been a 17-point effort in a 47-33 victory over visiting Cibola in the District 1-5A tournament last season.

Makenna Lee, with 10 points, was the only other player in the contest scoring in double figures.

The Rams had too many turnovers, in coach Lori Mabrey’s eyes, and too many missed free throws – in everybody’s eyes. The Rams had 25 turnovers, while the Pirates had 28; the Rams were 9 of 31 (29 percent) at the line, while Grants hit 44 percent (11 of 25) of their charity shots.

Ram dunks: RRHS is home this evening (Dec.14) to face Capital, then closes out the December schedule with more home games, Dec. 20 vs. Eldorado and Dec. 27 vs. Santa Fe, which it whipped 55-28 on Dec. 2 in the Bobby Rodriguez tournament at Santa Fe High.