By Dave Wagner
Mark Gallegos doesn’t want his team to get ahead of itself.
On paper the Rams (15-8, 4-1 District 4-3A) figure to beat last-place New Mexico Military tonight at the PHS gym and ensure no worse than a tie for the regular-season title and force a playoff against Lovington on Monday in Roswell for the top seed in next week’s tournament, with the game to be hosted by NMMI.
Lovington (14-9, 4-1), which snapped PHS’ seven-game winning streak 61-47 last Friday at home, closes out district play tonight at Ruidoso.
The Rams need a one-game-at-a-time approach, Gallegos said.
“We told the kids we need to focus of New Mexico Military and whatever else happens, happens,” Gallegos said. “If we have to go to Roswell Monday night, the kids really want to redeem themselves. We didn’t put forth our best effort at Lovington.”
Meantime, the PHS girls have already wrapped up the district title and will finish off their regular season with a 7 p.m. non-league home contest on Saturday against Roswell High.
NMMI (2-16, 0-5) has struggled since a off-the-field incident during the week of the state 3A football championship game led the school to pull out of the contest. It has had a carryover affect to basketball, with the school allowing violators to play in home games but not make road trips.
Gallegos said one starter and one significant reserve are mainly affected.
The Rams barely escaped the earlier meeting in Roswell, winning 40-39 when the Colts missed a 1-and-1 free throw opportunity with 0.7 seconds left.
Connor Williamson, a sophomore, led the Colts in that game with 18 points.
“Their best player is the Williamson kid,” Gallegos said. “Honestly, he’s probably one of the best players in the district.”
The district winner gets a bye into Saturday’s tournament championship game, and also gains an automatic berth into state competition in Albuquerque beginning March 9. The third and fourth seeds meet on Monday, with that winner traveling to the second seed in a semifinal match on Thursday.
Portales’ girls, already assured of a trip to state, host either Lovington or Ruidoso next Friday in the district championship game. Ruidoso (14-11, 2-3) and Lovington (9-14, 2-3) meet tonight to determine the No. 2 seed and the host of their semifinal contest, scheduled for Tuesday.
The Lady Rams, coming off a 60-34 romp over Ruidoso on Tuesday, are facing Class 4A’s top-ranked team in Roswell High (22-2). The Lady Coyotes won an earlier meeting 54-48 in Roswell.
“They’re good; they have a lot of athletes and great shooters,” Portales girls coach Brenda Gomez said. “I think this game can help us. With the seeding process (at state), if we beat a team like that it’ll help us.”
Gomez said the Lady Rams were clicking on all cylinders Tuesday at Ruidoso, a team which won at Portales by eight points earlier this month.
“We were getting the ball in a position to score, and we were selective about the shots we took,” Gomez said.
Portales 4-1 15-8
Lovington 4-1 14-9
Ruidoso 2-3 12-13
NMMI 0-5 2-16
Lovington at Ruidoso, 7 p.m.
NMMI at Portales, 7 p.m.
Regular season ends
Portales 4-2 12-11
Ruidoso 2-3 14-11
Lovington 2-3 9-15
Portales 60, Ruidoso 34
Roswell Goddard 65, Lovington 49
Ruidoso at Lovington, 7 p.m.
Roswell High at Portales, 7 p.m.
Regular season ends