Rams beat district rival to advance to semis

Portales senior guard Jerrod Long battles for a loose ball during Wednesday’s Class 3A boys state quarterfinal game against Ruidoso at Bernalillo High School. (Freedom Newspapers: Jesse Wolfersberger)

By Jesse Wolfersberger: Freedom Newspapers

ALBUQUERQUE — In the past month, four of the five wins racked by the Portales boys basketball team have come against District 4-3A rival Ruidoso.

On Wednesday at Bernalillo High School, the Rams beat Ruidoso 56-48 to advance to the semifinals of the Class 3A state tournament.

“It’s incredibly tough,” Warriors coach Billy Page said. “It hurts worse to lose to them. You can’t take anything away from them, they’re a good team.”

Portales (16-11) was led in scoring by senior Chris Adkins with 16 and junior Chance Sherburne with 15.

The Rams led by only three at halftime, but held Ruidoso scoreless for the five minutes of the third quarter and built a 45-32 advantage after three periods.

Portales coach Mark Gallegos said that despite his team’s recent success against them, the Warriors are still a good team.

“It’s hard to beat a team that’s well-coached,” he said. “And they’re a class act.”

Senior guard Sergio Castanon scored 14 for the Warriors (20-12).

“We survived,” Gallegos said. “Towards the end it wasn’t pretty. We just kept persevering. The first game at the state tournament isn’t easy, you’ve just got to get it and keep rolling.”

Sherburne said the Rams had the mental edge on Ruidoso.

“We knew they had something in the back of their head that said they couldn’t beat us,” he said.

Sherburne scored only one point in Portales’ win against West Las Vegas in the round of 16, but he was a big part of the Rams’ inside game on Wednesday.

“He was suspended for the first five games of the year, then he hurt his ankle,” Gallegos said. “So he’s just now getting into midseason form.”

Considering this was the fifth meeting between the teams this season, Ruidoso winning the first, it would have been no surprise if there was bad blood between the squads, but the game was clean from start to finish.

“It’s amazing,” Gallegos said. “As much as we’ve battled, there is no animosity. It’s just respect for each other. It’s hard to watch a team like that lose.”

Adkins said the Warriors wished his team good luck after the game.

“On the court we don’t like each other,” Adkins said. “But off the court we do. After the game, they told us to take it all the way. So they’re behind us. And if they beat us we’d be behind them too.”

Gallegos said both teams have plenty of character.

“It’s a tribute to the kids,” Gallegos said. “It’s a tribute to coach Page and his staff, to our staff, and to the kids. They’re all good kids.”

Page said he did not mind seeing the Rams in the tournament, he just wished it had been in the finals.

“The seeding committee has to take that into consideration,” Page said. “Not that we wouldn’t have beaten anybody else, I’m not saying that. To play each other five times, not in the finals, it ridiculous.”

The Rams face second-seeded Grants (23-5) in a 9:45 a.m. semifinal on Friday at The Pit. Grants won its quarterfinal game from Pojoaque 48-46.