By Dave Wagner
The Portales boys basketball team has been steadily improving, but the Rams know they have their work cut out tonight.
Portales puts a four-game winning streak on the line against the Clovis Wildcats, one of the top teams in Class 5A, in a 7:30 p.m. tipoff at the PHS gym.
Clovis (13-1), whose only loss was by two points to Frenship at Woolforth, Texas, is a senior-dominated squad led by 6-foot-8 post Tigg Bunton (21 ppg, 8 rpg) and 6-4 forward Dominique Easterlin (15 ppg, 9 rpg).
PHS coach Mark Gallegos noted that most of the Clovis players have been together for a long time, going back to coach J.D. Isler’s days at Marshall Junior High.
“Those kids, over the course of their careers, haven’t lost a lot of games,” Gallegos said.
Still, he noted that the teams faced off several times in summer play and added that the Rams (8-5) don’t intend to back down.
“Our kids are really looking forward to this game,” Gallegos said. “Every time we played in the summer, it was a battle.
“We play Clovis (primarily) to get better, but we’re going into the game thinking we can win.”
Isler, in his fourth season at CHS, thinks his current squad is the most rounded one he’s had and should be in position to do well in postseason play.
“This is the best team I’ve had playing against zones,” Isler said. “We’ve actually seen more zones than in the past, probably because teams just don’t want to match up with Tigg.
“We’ve got good size and good quickness. We think we’ve got a great chance to make a run at (a 5A state title).”
The Rams, whose leading scorer is 6-foot senior guard Chris Carter (15 ppg), don’t have anywhere near the size the Wildcats possess. Still, Gallegos thinks they can cause some problems.
Portales beat Bernalillo and Artesia handily at home over the weekend.
“It’s just a big test for us to let us know where we stand,” Gallegos said. “We can’t match up with them size-wise, but I think we can cause them some problems in the backcourt.”
Isler said he doesn’t doubt that.
“They do a good job of running picks,” he said of the Rams. “We’ll have to come ready to play because I know Mark will figure out some way to affect the outcome.”
Gallegos hopes to have senior post Jack Hale (hyperextended knee) back for tonight’s game. Hale, who missed both of the weekend contests, was scheduled to test the knee out in Monday’s practice.