By Kevin Wilson
The New Mexico Military Institute Colts were just happy to finish off Friday night with a 3-0 district mark. The Portales Rams were disappointed to finish off 0-for-12.
The host Rams and the visiting Colts were both held to season lows, but the Colts survived an abysmal shooting night thanks to a worse one from Portales in a 31-30 victory.
“By looking at me, you’d think we lost,” NMMI coach Kevin Jones said. “I’m not happy with the way we won, but I’m happy that we won.”
Portales (6-13, 1-2) shot 7-of-39 from the field, missing its final 14 field goal attempts. The drought came after Nathan Brown hit a baseline jumper to tie the game at 24-24 late in the third quarter, capping off a 9-0 run.
“After we made that run, I felt really good,” Portales coach Mark Gallegos said. “Coach (Rick) Apodaca told us we were one jump shot away from breaking this thing open.”
The Rams never got that shot, missing their final two attempts of the third and all 12 in the fourth quarter. Gallegos felt that his players took good shots for the most part, but couldn’t connect.
“It’s the whole game,” Gallegos said. “We play our butts off on the defensive end of the floor, and we have that happen.
“We just couldn’t hit a jump shot. I don’t know how much better looks we can get. We have to knock them down.”
With the one-point margin, one of those jump shots could have created a three-way tie with the Colts and Lovington in the District 4-3A standings (Lovington defeated Ruidoso 74-71 Saturday night).
Instead, the Colts (7-11, 3-0) keep a surprising lead in district play and the Rams need to win their final three district games to have a chance at one of the top two seeds in the district tournament.
Even with the poor shooting night, the Rams had several opportunities to win the game late. They held the Colts without a field goal for a 10:16 stretch that bridged the third and fourth quarters, and the Colts did their part to help out the comeback by shooting 4-of-18 in the second half and 1-of-6 from the free-throw line.
Jarrod Long missed a pair of free throws with 3.9 seconds left that could have extended the one-point lead. It didn’t matter in the end, as a 3-pointer by Carter was long off the rim.
Carter, the game’s only double-figure scorer with 13 points, could only slap the floor in disgust. The Colts, meanwhile, escaped with a 3-0 record and have two of their final three district games at home, including Tuesday’s game against Lovington.
“That’s what everyone strives to have,” Jones said. “I’m happy that two of the wins have come on the road, which is huge for us.”
Both teams enjoyed a lead as high as nine points, but failed to keep the lead as the opponent responded a big run. The Rams started hitting three of their first five shots to take a 9-0 lead, but the Colts responded with a 10-0 burst to take the lead after the first period.
The Colts, meanwhile, built up a lead through most of the second quarter and led 24-15 with 7:11 to go in the third quarter before the Portales rally.
Casey Williamson and Waige Turueke each scored eight points to lead NMMI. Chris Kirchner scored six for Portales.
The Rams will host Ruidoso Tuesday, the second in a four-game homestand. In the junior varsity game, Portales defeated NMMI 39-37.