By Dave Wagner
Veteran Portales High girls basketball coach Brenda Gomez has a lot of faith in her team, and for good reason — the Lady Rams have won the last two Class 3A state championships, and three of the last four.
So, even though they have to replace three starters from last year’s 23-4 squad, Gomez expects the Lady Rams to keep on rolling.
“I expect us to be in the state championship game,” said Gomez, beginning her 19th season. “We’ll be playing a lot different type of game, but with what we have I think we should be able to do it.”
Portales opens its season with a 7:30 p.m. clash against Class 5A Carlsbad on Tuesday at the PHS gym.
Perhaps the biggest concern is point guard, a position Gomez hasn’t had to worry about for at least a decade with the likes of Mandi Wood, Laci Lee and, most recently, her daughter, Roni Gomez. But the coach said she’s confident someone will step up.
“I think we have quite a few options,” she said. “A lot will depend on how kids handle it.”
In addition to Roni Gomez, the Lady Rams also graduated Erika Cook and Kassandra Richards.
“Ron, Erika and Kassandra had played with each other since they were 10,” coach Gomez said. “But we have some kids who can shoot, some who can rebound and some who can run the floor.
“We have the ability to do things. We just have to be able to put it together.”
PHS returns three juniors with starting experience, including 5-10 forward Megan Kabrick, who started two years ago but missed nearly the entire 2003-04 campaign with a knee injury. The others are 6-1 post Morgan Hill and 5-6 guard-forward Ashleah Richards.
The team should make the necessary adjustments, Richards said.
“We lost three of the best players that have come through Portales, but I think we can get to the next level,” she said. “There’s some pressure on us, but with what we have we know we can do it.”
Others who played various amounts of time last season but will have more featured roles this time include 5-6 senior guard Patty Terry, 5-2 junior point guard Rebekah Gonzales, 5-8 sophomore post Dora Garcia, 5-4 junior guard Caroline Knudson, 5-7 sophomore guard-forward Briana Hernandez and 5-9 senior forward Stephanie Sharrock, who is also coming off an ACL injury sustained in January.
“We have some great kids coming back,” Gomez said. “We have (the ingredients) that make a championship team.
“It’ll be a challenge to all of us. We’re going to have to mature some.”
Richards said that while the Lady Rams are probably stronger inside than outside this season, she’s confident someone will step up to run the team.
“Someone will be able to do it; we just don’t know for sure who it’ll be,” she said. “We’re stronger inside this year; we graduated a lot of our outside shooting.”
A couple of newcomers, 5-11 freshman forward-post Bethany Self and 5-7 guard Tara Johnson, an eighth grader, are likely to work into the mix, Gomez said, noting that Self played up with the Lady Rams during the summer and held her own.
“It’ll take some time, but I definitely think she’ll make a difference,” Gomez said.
Gomez and Richards expect the other two teams in District 4-3A, Ruidoso and Lovington, to be formidable. But they remain confident.
“We lost to (Ruidoso) during the summer,” Richards said. “My uncle coaches for Ruidoso, and they should be a pretty good team. But I think we’re going to take it.”
PHS girls schedule
23 — Carlsbad, 7:30 p.m.; 30 — at Muleshoe, 5:30 p.m.
3 — Clovis, 7:30 p.m.; 9-11 — at Rio Rancho tournament, TBA; 13 — at Roswell Goddard, 7 p.m.; 14 — at Roswell High, 7 p.m.; 18 — at Moriarty, 3:30 p.m.
4 — at Carlsbad, 7 p.m.; 7-8 — Portales Shootout, TBA; 14 —at Sudan, 7 p.m.; 18 — Roswell Goddard, 7 p.m.; 28 — Lovington, 7 p.m.-x.
1 — at Ruidoso, 7 p.m.-x; 8 — at Lovington, 7 p.m.-x;11 — Ruidoso, 7 p.m.-x; 18 — Lovington, 7 p.m.-x; 22 — at Ruidoso, 7 p.m.-x; 26 — Roswell High, 7 p.m.
All Times MST. x-District 4-3A games.