By Kevin Wilson
Heading into the final phase of the summer basketball season, Portales girls coach Brenda Gomez is satisfied with the results.
“It’s all been positive,” Gomez said in between Thursday night games at the Eastern New Mexico University team camp. “The turnout, the participation, the attitude — everything’s been positive.”
Portales dropped a 46-43 decision to Clovis in Tuesday’s West Texas-New Mexico Phenoms league title. Gomez feels the defending Class 3A champion Lady Rams can hold court with what is arguably the most talented team in Class 5A.
As far as Portales is concerned, the biggest step towards a state title repeat is to merge new talent with the starting five — juniors Roni Gomez, Kassandra Richards and Erika Cook along with sophomore posts Morgan Hill and Megan Kabrick.
“I know what those five are capable of,” Coach Gomez said, “and Morgan and Megan have gotten even better over the summer.”
Over the next two days, the Lady Rams will be playing teams from Class 1A to 5A. Gomez said a big goal during the games is to give new players a chance to acclimate to playing with Hill and Kabrick, something the 2003-04 senior class will have to do when the current senior class graduates.
“It will definitely help them for the next two years,” said Gomez.
The primary mission for Portales’ senior class, which will make up at least half of the upcoming team, is to win its third state title in four seasons. Another element is to prepare underclassmen to keep Portales among the state title contenders.
“I think by bringing up the underclassmen to play on the varsity level, it’s been helpful just giving them playing time,” said senior Amy Archibeque. “It’s faster and tougher. It’s not like JV or freshman year. It’s much faster … the defense is rougher and tougher.”
For now, Gomez said that playing in team camps and summer leagues is the best way to help the team gel.
“I don’t think there’s any substitute for playing,” Gomez said, “and I’ve seen a lot of good things.”
Gomez likes the play of sophomore post Ashleah Richards, the younger sister of Kassandra Richards, and junior guard Patty Terry.
“She gets some rebounds and you don’t know how,” Gomez said of Richards. “She’s just worked really, really hard.”
As for Terry, Gomez feels she could supply some much-needed scoring for the next two years if she is able to overcome various injuries. Gomez said that Terry has undergone five knee surgeries and missed most of last year with a dislocated shoulder.
“She can score and she can handle the ball,” Gomez said, “but she’s got to get back at that level physically.”