By Kevin Wilson: Freedom Newspapers
It wasn’t comforting for the Portales Rams knowing that New Mexico Military Institute came in with losses in all 15 games, by a combined 339 points. Not when the Colts lost their opening District 4-3A game by three against Ruidoso.
The Rams made sure that situation didn’t repeat itself Friday, scoring the final 11 points of the first half to build a lead that would last throughout in a 59-29 win for Portales’ first district win.
“It’s just good to get to 1-1,” Portales coach Mark Gallegos said. “You always worry in those kinds of games that the kids are going to come out flat. I think we played pretty decent.”
Daniel Aranda scored 14 to lead the Rams, and Jerrod Long scored 11 of his 13 points in the first half as Portales (10-10 overall) rolled to a 32-12 halftime advantage and went deep into its bench in the second half.
A 3-pointer by Cruz Ontiveros started a 14-2 run that included a transition 3-pointer from Aranda and a 3-point play on a Long putback. Aranda hit a layup with 11 seconds left in the quarter to put the exclamation point on a 32-12 lead.
Aranda said jumping on the Colts was the agenda for the game.
“It was pretty important because we knew they had Ruidoso down the whole way,” Aranda said. “Coach didn’t want us to come out like Ruidoso did and give them a chance.”
Colt coach Pilar Carrasco said that Friday’s game was such a different situation than NMMI’s close-but-no-cigar ending against Ruidoso, who the Colts led for all but the final few minutes.
“(Portales is) so well-coached,” Carrasco said. “It was tough for us to match the intensity we played with against Ruidoso. When you play at home and you’ve got the cadets there, it brings you up.”
Including Friday’s result, the Colts have lost their games by an average of 23 points, and only three of the losses have been single-digit margins.
Carrasco admitted that it is a rebuilding job and a learning experience for him, with a different scenario than when he led the Lovington girls to a district championship in his second season.
“We have some talent here, but those teams (in Lovington), they grew up together,” Carrasco said. “It’s tough to get these guys to play together, but I wouldn’t trade these kids for the world.
“Our kids have really good character and that’s what matters.”
The Colts were unimpressive on the court most of the night, shooting just 25 percent (7-of-28) with 27 turnovers. The Rams (24-of-40 shooting, 6-of-12 3-pointers) probably could have put the Colts away earlier, but were stymied by 12 first-half turnovers, many on botched fast break passes.
“I didn’t like that we were making those mistakes this late in the year,” Gallegos said. “We’ll go back on the floor tomorrow and get to work.”
His point guard could certainly concur.
“We’ve got to work on our unforced turnovers — stupid passes and whatever else. We’ve got to take care of that. It kind of hurt us at Lovington too (in a 49-48 loss).”