By Rick White
ALBUQUERQUE — Ashleah Richards goes as hard to the buffet line as she does to the boards. Classmate Joni Brakebill is no slouch either when it comes to piling food on a plate.
“It’s free food,” said Brakebill, whose pre-practice morning fare Thursday included scrambled eggs with Tabasco sauce and biscuits and gravy. “Hey, it’s free food.”
Next to her, Richards was giving high marks to the hash browns.
The Portales Lady Rams, who face newcomer Socorro at 7 tonight with a chance to win their third Class 3A state title in four years, are a fun-loving bunch.
“We’re all like sisters,” Richards said. “It’s great that we can all get together and have some fun.
“We’re up here with my sister and her best friend (pointing to seniors Kassandra Richards and Roni Gomez) and I can spend time with them.”
Kassandra Richards said road trips give the team a chance to bond.
“It allows us to spend more time together as a team and get to know each other better, especially with the younger girls,” said Kassandra Richards, one of four seniors on the team.
While her mother, Portales coach Brenda Gomez, sat at a nearby table nursing a cup of coffee, Roni Gomez was devouring a plate of French toast from her second trip to the buffet — and that was after she grabbed a plateful of waffles at the team hotel.
Brenda Gomez said her daughter eats enough for both of them.
“That girl can eat,” the veteran coach said.
In her 18th season at Portales, Brenda Gomez said this year’s team is special because of how much fun they have while still winning.
Her daughter is one of the instigators.
An example: Roni Gomez and Kassandra Richards recorded a rap song — including bass and scratching sounds — on Richards’ cell phone that they played before Wednesday’s semifinal win over Robertson.
“It got us fired up,” said Richards, aka Big K.
Among the lyrics were “you better shut your mouth because you’re in our house,” said Gomez, whose rap name is Scrawny.
The silliness sometimes drives the super-serious coach crazy, but another part of her said she’s going to miss it.
Just then she looks up, and Brakebill is tossing grapes in the air and trying to catch them in her mouth.