By Kevin Wilson: PNT Staff Writer
In what turned out to be a tuneup for Saturday’s matchup with Artesia, the host Portales Rams fired on all cylinders early Friday.
Portales scored the first 12 points of the game and got points from nine different players in a 52-37 win against Wingate in the Portales Shootout.
The Rams (6-7) never trailed and got off to a start that shocked coach Mark Gallegos, even though the visiting Bears came into the contest at 3-10.
“I was really surprised because they got a couple of kids that got eligible after Christmas,” Gallegos said. “I was proud of our effort. We try to pretty much jump out on somebody.”
Portales needed some time to get into a rhythm, scoring just three points in the game’s first five minutes, but a pressing defense helped the Rams get a lead on the Bears, who had absolutely nothing go right in the first quarter.
“A 350-mile trip can take a lot out of you,” Wingate coach Al Martinez said. “The first quarter was definitely the difference in the game.”
Portales shot 6-of-15 in the first quarter, while Wingate went 1-of-8 and quickly lost starting guard Jeffrey Longhair to a shoulder injury.
Longhair was hurt late in the first quarter in a collision on the floor with Portales’ Daniel Aranda, with each going for a loose ball. He was carried out on a stretcher at halftime, with Portales up 30-13 by that point.
Wingate (3-11) never got much closer, as Portales pushed the lead to as much as 25. Wingate closed to within 14, 44-30, with six minutes to go, but a free throw from Aranda and a backdoor layup by Daniel Boan put the final nails in the coffin.
“We just executed, worked harder,” said Boan, who scored eight points on the night.
Aranda led the Rams with 14 points, while Jonathan Garcia added 10.
Boan thought the first-half effort was good, but noted that the team has to shoot better than it did from the line (12-of-27) to have a chance against Artesia.
“I thought we came out strong,” Boan said. “I think we do need a better effort (Saturday), though.”
Gallegos certainly agreed with his post, but said the strong first half outweighed any negatives about the second half.
“We were kind of lackadaisical in the second half, but we got a chance to play a lot of kids,” Gallegos said.
Martinez was impressed with the Portales effort, in any case.
“Portales is one of the best defensive teams we’ve played all year. Everything we got, we had to earn.
“That’s why we came down here, to get good competition and see what it’s going to take.”
Earvin Cadmon and Roland Yazzie each had 13 points to lead the Bears.
Wingate plays in a 4:30 p.m. game against Los Alamos, followed by the Portales girls facing Los Alamos and the Ram boys hosting the Bulldogs in the nightcap.
“Artesia will be the big game,” Gallegos said. “That’s a big rivalry. Hopefully, we’ll come out the same way (we did tonight).”