By Eric Butler: CNJ correspondant
Parents from Tucumcari, a sister from Portales, an aunt and uncle from Amarillo, friends from Lubbock — the roster of Rick Apodaca supporters was certainly impressive when the Taos basketball team took the court Friday against Clovis.
But Apodaca, a former assistant in Portales before taking the Taos head coaching job two years ago, had a couple of very specific reasons for being in his old territory and it had nothing to do with friends and family.
Namely, the reasons were Clovis and Roswell — the teams the Tigers will play in the two-day Purple Pepper Shootout in Clovis.
Night one, on the scoreboard, didn’t go the way Taos supporters would have liked as Clovis beat the Tigers 71-50.
Apodaca, however, wasn’t entirely displeased.
“One thing I’m trying to do is beef up our schedule a little bit,” Apodaca said. “You know, with the new (playoff) system, I feel you have to play up. We feel like Clovis is one of the top teams in 5A and tomorrow, well, that’s the game I wanted. People think I’m crazy, but I think that Roswell is the best team in the state in 4A.”
Three of Taos’ senior starters were not playing on Friday night. Andrew
Gonzales was still out with a torn ACL, Harold Sanchez didn’t play because of the flu and Eugene Visarraga, as well as junior reserve Joe Montoya, sat for academic reasons.
“We want to play them, whether we’ve got a full roster or not,” said Apodaca, looking ahead to the Saturday matchup with the Coyotes — winners of 13 games in a row.
“We want the challenge. People say, ‘Coach, you’re playing shorthanded. You’re going five or six hours to play in some gym. Why do you want to do that to your kids?’” he added. “Because, come tournament time, we’re going to be tested. I learned that from coach (Mark) Gallegos in Portales. He’s
always played 4A and 5A teams and you notice that, come tournament time, Portales is always there.”