By Jesse Wolfersberger: CNJ staff writer
PORTALES — By coming out on top of the three-way tie for first place in District 4-3A, the Portales boys basketball team greatly improved its chances of winning the district tournament for a second consecutive season.
First of all, Portales was able to sit back and wait while third-seeded Ruidoso beat New Mexico Military 89-59 on Tuesday, then edged Lovington 49-46 on Thursday to advance to the finals.
Second, and perhaps more importantly, the Rams (14-11) will be able to play today’s 7 p.m. contest at home, where they are 7-2 this season.
Portales coach Mark Gallegos said he used the week to energize his players.
“We had the day off (Tuesday),” Gallegos said. “We just shot some free throws and watched some video then let the kids go home and get some rest.
“I thought it was good for us. They had some gas in their tank and had some legs (when they returned). It’s nice to see that.”
The Rams beat Lovington once and Ruidoso twice in their past three games to earn the top seed in the tournament.
“All we needed to do was to get on a little bit of a roll, “I think early on, mentally, we kind of questioned some things and our confidence was a little down. Our confidence is way up now.”
If the Rams beat Ruidoso tonight, they will host a regional game next week.
“I think the kids enjoy playing at home,” Gallegos said. “We’ve played well at home all year long.”
Portales junior Cruz Ontiveros said tonight’s game will come down to a lot more than who is playing at home.
“It’s going to be a tough game,” he said. “We can’t just come out and think we’re going to win just because we’re at home. We have to play with intensity and 100 percent effort and try to pull off a win.”