By Kevin Wilson
Portales’ magic number against the Goddard Rockets was 45. For the Rockets, the magic number turned out to be 86.
Visiting Goddard led for just 86 seconds, but it equated into the final 1:26 as the Rockets outlasted Portales 40-39 Monday in a non-district game. The Rams held Goddard under their defensive goal of 45 points, but that didn’t matter after Larry Hernandez hit a pair of free throws to give the Rockets their only lead.
It didn’t matter 86 seconds later after Chris Kirchner’s 3-point attempt came up short in the final seconds.
And it didn’t matter to Ram coach Mark Gallegos that Goddard had a little more experience and made good adjustments to recover from a nine-point deficit in the second half.
“By this time of the year, (inexperience) shouldn’t matter,” Gallegos said. “We’ve got to be a little more disciplined and we’ve got to know how to close the game out.”
Goddard (7-7) held Portales scoreless for the final 3:50 and erased a 39-33 deficit with the late free-throw shooting of Hernandez (16 points) and the 3-point shooting of Gabe Garcia (seven points).
“We knew they were going to do that,” Goddard coach Dennis Montanez said of Portales’ constant switches on defense. “All we had to do was be patient enough to get in our offensive sets to counter.”
Portales (5-11) staked out an early lead and took advantage of late baskets in the second and third quarters. Chris Carter hit a 3-pointer to end the first half, then hit another to open the third as Portales claimed a 24-15 lead.
Carter had 16 points to lead Portales.
Goddard tied the score at 30 with 1:08 to go in the third on a 3-pointer by Thomas Corley, and had a chance to take the lead in the final seconds of the period. However, Bo Gabriel took a charge to negate a Rocket layup with nine seconds left, and the Rams capitalized with a buzzer-beating layup by Austin Pullen.
The Rams were held to just six points in the final period, and didn’t score after a Seth Clabaugh layup to put Portales up 39-35. Garcia answered with a 3-pointer, and Hernandez hit a pair of free throws to put Goddard on top.
Portales had two chances to retake the lead, but turned over an inbound pass and failed to get an offensive rebounds on Kirchner’s miss.
Pullen had eight points for Portales, while Clabaugh and Kirchner each scored five.
The game ended non-district play for both teams. The Rams are idle until Jan. 27 when they go to Ruidoso.
Regardless of Monday’s result, Gallegos contends that the team has to believe that their sub-.500 record won’t matter next week, when district play gives them a clean slate.
“We’re 0-0 right now, “Gallegos said. “We’ve just got to be ready for the district season. We’re going into the best district in 3A — I don’t care what anybody says — from top to bottom.”
In the junior varsity game, the Rams needed overtime to defeat Roswell 40-37.