By Kevin Wilson
Tuesday was Daniel Aranda’s 16th birthday, and the Ram guard made sure his teammates would be celebrating the night as well.
Aranda hit a 3-pointer that sparked a pivotal 11-0 run to close out the third quarter, turning a close game into a blowout, and host Portales went on to a 46-28 District 4-3A win.
Portales (7-13, 2-2 district) never trailed and led by as much as 22 in the fourth quarter, when all the Rams had to do was protect a 36-19 lead after three quarters.
It was the type win that allowed Portales coach Mark Gallegos to laugh off a technical foul he received midway through the fourth.
“That’s the kind of win we’ve been searching for,” Gallegos said. “They scored 10 points in the second half, and Coach Gallegos accounted for one of those on the technical.”
Nick Page hit one of two technical free throws to cut the lead to 36-22, but Ruidoso (11-9, 0-4) never got any closer.
The key to the game came in the third quarter when guard Chris Carter, the Rams’ leading scorer, came out with 4:12 to play after accidently getting poked in the eye.
Instead of a breakdown, the Rams closed out the quarter by scoring the next nine points, with Aranda handling the point in Carter’s place.
“Daniel’s one of those kids who comes up from the JV,” Gallegos said of Aranda, a 5-foot-9 sophomore. “What people don’t realize is they practice twice a day (varsity and JV). They work their butts off and that work pays off.”
“He’s a big part of our future, and he’s a big part of our present because we need his presence off the bench.”
Aranda scored only three points on the night, but they came on a baseline trey with 3:11 to go.
“I just tried to step it up and not make turnovers,” Aranda said. “(The 3-pointer) got my confidence up because I didn’t shoot well in the JV game. My defense stepped up to because that got me pumped up.”
It also helped fuel the Rams, who punctuated a solid night on defense by holding Ruidoso to 3-of-16 shooting in the second half.
“We fell apart when we got here, we fell apart when we got off the bus,” Ruidoso coach Billy Page said. “Not for one second in the game did we play to our potential.”
The Warriors scored just one point in the third quarter, and went for a stretch of 10:33 without a field goal.
“Our kids didn’t adjust, they didn’t recognize, they didn’t make their reads,” Page said. “That’s a credit to Portales. They did a good job of taking us out of our game.”
On the other end of the floor, Seth Clabaugh led the way with 16 points. Gallegos felt Clabaugh would have several more games like that, reasoning that a great deal of pressure is gone following his letter-of-intent signing with Angelo State University’s football team.
“Now that he’s got all of that off his mind, he’s been working hard and having fun,” Gallegos said. “His best games are still to come.”
Page hopes the same is true for the Warriors, who host New Mexico Military Institute Tuesday. With an 0-4 record in district, Ruidoso will have to come back to Portales for a game in the District 4-3A tournament.
“There’s no other way,” Page said. “We’ve got to come back here in 13 days. We’re just trying to get in the district tournament and finish strong.”
Garrett Born scored nine of his team-high 11 in the second quarter for Ruidoso. Carter scored 11 for Portales while Russell Knudson had 10.
In the junior varsity game, Ruidoso defeated Portales 49-42.