Portales pulls into tie for first

Portales junior Chance Sherburne hits a layup as Ruidoso’s Ted LaCoe goes for a block during Friday’s game at Portales High School. (Freedom Newspapers: Jesse Wolfersberger)

By Jesse Wolfersberger: Freedom Newspapers

After the Portales Rams thumped Ruidoso, forcing a three way tie for first in Division 4-3A, Warriors coach Billy Page said it certainly did not feel like his team was still, technically, in first place.

“It feels like we’re in last right now,” Page said. “They kicked our tails from one end of the floor to the other.”

The Rams held Ruidoso to two points in the second quarter and ran away in the second half for a 66-40 win on Friday at Portales High School.

Chris Adkins scored a game high 16 for the Rams (13-11, 3-2 in district).

Ted Lacoe and Sergio Castanon paced Ruidoso (17-9, 4-2) with 13 points apiece.

The Warriors could have clinched the top seed in the district tournament, and the automatic state tournament berth that comes with it, if they handled Portales. Instead, Portales outscored the Warriors 13-2 in the second quarter and continued to pull away in the second half, outscoring Ruidoso 40-26.

“The teams that play late into the year, and I really believe this, are the ones who start playing defense,” Portales coach Mark Gallegos said. “Our kids have bought into that. Our offense feeds off our defense, and I think you saw that tonight.”

On Feb. 7 in Ruidoso, the Warriors convincingly beat the Rams 55-36. Page said the turnover battle was the difference between the two results.

“At our place Portales turned the ball over quite a few times and here we did,” Page said. “If you turn the ball over, you’re not going to win the game.”

The Warriors will not have to wait long for the rematch. With Lovington’s 68-43 win against NMMI, the Wildcats, Warriors, and Rams have identical 3-2 district records. In a post-game coin toss, Lovington was given the second seed in the district tournament and Portales and Ruidoso will play for the top spot at 7 p.m. on Monday at NMMI. The loser will drop to the third seed.

Portales senior Daniel Aranda, who chipped in 8 in the contest, said he and his teammates are glad they get a chance to play for the top seed, even if with the possibility of dropping to third.

“It’s what we wanted,” Aranda said. “I think the way we’re playing right now, even if we drop down to third, we can still battle back. We’re just playing good.”

Considering the home team has dominated in the first two matchups, Gallegos thinks the third game is tough to predict.

“It’s not going to be the same kind of game,” Gallegos said. “It will be interesting to see how it goes.”