By Kevin Wilson
If anything, New Mexico Military Institute has served as proof that nothing is for sure in District 4-3A.
Except, the Portales Rams hope, homecourt advantage.
After starting the season 4-11, NMMI has won its first two games in district and hold the lead coming into tonight’s game at Portales.
“It’s one of those things where I think a lot of people overlooked us, counted us out, whatever you want to say,” Colt coach Kevin Jones said. “With our situation, it’s just a matter of time.
“We don’t have great athletes, but we’re solid. The kids kept believing and working hard.”
It sounds like something Portales coach Mark Gallegos would say. After splitting games with Ruidoso (40-38 win) and Lovington (71-55 loss), the Rams (6-12) have a three-game district homestand starting with the Colts.
Gallegos is hoping the homecourt advantage will push the Rams to one of the top seeds in the District 4-3A tournament.
“ We’d have liked to have been 2-0, but getting the split, we’re in a really good position,” Gallegos said. “If we can get NMMI at home, we can beat Ruidoso at home, we can beat Lovington at home, we’ll get a chance to play at home (in the district tournament).”
Gallegos pointed out that his team hasn’t played many home games — more precisely, just four of its first 18 games.
“I think that’s a key,” Jones said. “Any time you can defend your own home floor, that’s a little incentive because everybody knows you have to win at home (in the district tournament.)”
Jones said he isn’t as much surprised as he is happy about the Colts leading the district up to this point. NMMI added a pair of guards — Gaige Sippey and Waige Turueke — over the Christmas break, which Jones admits has helped.
“It’s given us a little more stability out front,” Jones said. “We always felt that our inside game was good, but our perimeter game was shaky. These kids have added to the decision making in a positive way and the ball-handling in a positive way.”
Height has never been a problem this season, even after the graduation of 6-foot-6 Max LeBaron. Their inside game is mainly patrolled by 6-foot-4 Jarrod Long.
“They’re big,” Gallegos said of the Colts. “They’re 6-6, 6-4, 6-3 inside and probably the smallest kid they put in the lineup will be 5-10.
“They’re so big inside that we can’t give them second chances.”
Both teams have been idle through the week. It can be viewed as both a blessing and a curse for the Rams.
“The good thing is that we get our legs back under us,” Gallegos said. “We tried to pace ourselves to make sure we’re ready for NMMI.
“But after you play a tough game like Lovington and you get beat and you feel like you played pretty well, you want to get right back out there.”