Rams host NMMI for District 4-3A title

By Mickey Winfield: PNT sports writer

PORTALES — Portales Rams basketball coach Mark Gallegos doesn’t believe his team has put together four complete quarters in any game this season.

He believes if they do that tonight, they’ll win their third consecutive District 4-3A championship.

Portales and the New Mexico Military Institute Colts split a pair of games during the regular season.

“I really don’t believe that anybody’s gotten our best game this year,” Gallegos said. “This is the time of the year that you have to come up with your best game.”

Rams senior Erett Grubbs echoes Gallegos’ comments.

“It’s probably going to be another close one,” Grubbs said. “But I think if we play our game and have a good game this time (we’ll be OK).

“I don’t think we’ve had what we consider our best game yet. But if we do that, we’ll blow them out of the water.”

As the district’s top seed, the Rams (15-9) have been quiet since their district finale Feb. 16 at Dexter. Meanwhile, the Colts (19-9) have been fighting through the District 4-3A tournament. NMMI destroyed Ruidoso at home 76-46 Tuesday before upsetting Lovington on the road 56-51 Wednesday.

“NMMI’s kind of on a roll,” Gallegos said. “Sometimes it’s not bad to be playing through the district tournament because you kind of get on a roll and they’re playing real well together right now. They’re playing with a lot of confidence.”

The Rams beat NMMI in the district opener at home 49-43 in mid-January. The Colts evened the score early this month, beating Portales 37-36 on a late basket. It was the Rams’ only district loss.

“We fought so hard to get the lead back, and we did it with nine seconds left,” Gallegos said. “And then we gave up a layup and it was hard for the kids to take. Maybe in the long run it was a good thing for us.”

Gallegos points at NMMI’s transition game as a priority in this third meeting.

“The thing that hurt us up there at NMMI the last time was transition,” Gallegos said. “Of the 18 points they had in the first half, they scored 11 in transition. We’ve got to do a better job with that, and we worked on that (this week).”

The winner of tonight’s game will host a state tournament first-round game next week. The loser must travel in the first round of the state tournament.