By Eric Butler: CNJ correspondent
LAS VEGAS, N.M. — When the Class 3A North-South all-star basketball games took place Friday night, five recent Portales seniors were there to represent the South squad. It seemed only right that Brenda Gomez, who coached them throughout their high school careers, was also honored.
Prior to the girls contest, a 91-67 victory for the North, Gomez was acknowledged in a long introduction before the crowd at New Mexico Highlands University — which was duly informed that she was selected as Coach of the Year and the winner of the Ralph Bowyer Character award.
This was not only a night in which players Briana Hernandez, Montana Russell, Amanda Terry, Sabrina Villanueva and Kaycee Quick would represent Portales one last time, it was also the last time for Gomez. Recently, Gomez decided to take the coaching position at Waco (Texas) Robinson High.
“I didn’t expect it at all,” Gomez said. “It was a good ending to have all these kids here. It’s special to have them all at the all-star game.”
The girls game itself was a somewhat forgettable experience for the southerners as the North squad jumped out to a 19-7 lead with an 11-0 run eight minutes into the game. The North’s lead, extended to 16 points in the first half, was trimmed to nine when Ruidoso’s Hailee Bob hit a pair of free throws with 6:34 left in the game.
The North, led by Kara Tafoya’s 17 points, responded with a back-breaking 17-3 run to push ahead 81-58. Bob led the South with 19 points, while Hernandez paced the Portales contingent with 10 points.
It was the first of what may be many appearances for Hernandez on the floor at the John A. Wilson Complex. She plans to walk on at Highlands.
“I think this was one of the greatest experiences, playing with people you don’t know and see how they play,” Hernandez said. “I mean, playing with Treva (Riley of Laguna-Acoma), oh my gosh, that girl can play.”
Quick scored eight points and grabbed four rebounds. Villanueva added five points, Terry tallied four and Russell scored one basket as all Portales players got into the scoring column.
“It’s a real honor to have this many girls at the game,” said Gomez, watching as the contest came to an end.
However, coaches will be coaches.
“Nobody played up to their potential,” she added. “They acted like they hadn’t had a ball in their hands for months.”
A somewhat similar train of thought came from one of her players about the festivities.
“I liked her as a coach,” said Quick. “I was very proud to have her as my coach. But I really wanted to win the game. I like to win.”
In the boys contest, Portales representatives Cruz Ontiveros and Chance Sherburne were on the winning side as the South earned an 86-74 victory over the North.
Holding a 19-18 lead, a 3-pointer from Hope Christian’s Ryan Gladwell kicked off a 13-0 run and the South led by at least 10 points the rest of the way. Gladwell earned Most Valuable Player honors for the South while Robertson’s Isaiah Archuleta, who had 10 points, won the award for the North.
The South now holds a 4-3 series advantage in the boys basketball event. Sherburne had four points while Ontiveros added three in the victory.