By Kevin Wilson
Erika Cook spent a good deal of her formative years in the Portales High School gymnasium.
“I remember me and Roni (Gomez) coming when we were starting in sixth grade,” the Lady Ram senior said, “and we’d come to my sister’s practices.”
For the past four years, she’s been the one practicing and playing in the gym, helping Portales win four Class 3A state titles — two in volleyball, two in basketball.
Cook, who turns 18 on Saturday, can get a late birthday present with one more basketball championship, and Portales (20-4) needs to win three elimination games over the next two weekends to accomplish that. The first is tonight’s Region B championship, a 7 p.m. game against Grants (15-6).
Portales coach Brenda Gomez insists the Lady Rams are taking a “one game at a time” approach, but is confident that the team won’t waste a chance to win their second-straight title and third in four seasons.
“We’re taking one game at a time,” Cook said, “but we are (also) looking ahead to set goals for ourselves.”
Portales owns a nine-game winning streak and is 8-1 at home this season. It’s also the last home game for four seniors (Cook, Amy Archibeque, Roni Gomez and Kassandra Richards).
“I know the seniors want to play as well as they can, being that it’s their last game in the gym,” Coach Gomez said. “A lot of them grew up here.”
Portales faced Grants two years ago in regionals, winning 56-20. The Lady Pirate squad back then was anchored by 6-foot-4 Laura Metzger, but the current team depends more on quickness. Grants lost to Socorro 42-41 in the District 3-3A title game on Saturday.
“We scouted them (Saturday),” Gomez said. “They’re quick and they press all the time. We’ve just got to take care of the ball, be patient with the offense and beat them on the boards.”
Friday’s winner will play Wednesday at The Pit in Albuquerque in a 2 p.m. game against the Region A champion — Bloomfield hosts Pojoaque in that game, also tonight at 7 p.m.
Tickets for the game are available until noon today at the PHS attendance office. Tickets are $5.