By Kevin Wilson: PNT Staff Writer
Artesia had one statistic that was imposing for the host Portales Rams — 6-5, the height of sophomore center Landry Jones.
Portales had control of two other statistics — 43 points from its starting backcourt and 10 fewer turnovers — to make the difference in a 58-55 win in Saturday’s nightcap of the Portales Shootout.
The Rams swept competition at the two-day tournament to climb back to .500, but the visiting Bulldogs (6-6) made Portales earn the victory with a rally in the fourth quarter.
Artesia almost forced overtime in what was Bulldog coach Ike Montoya’s first game coaching in Portales. The 1982 Portales High graduate was happy for the opportunity to come back home and play some basketball.
“We came out a little flat in the first half,” said Montoya, who came to Artesia after coaching Deming to the 2005 Class 4A title. “We kind of picked things up in the second half and I thought we matched Portales’ intensity.”
The Bulldogs couldn’t quite match the guard play on Portales’ side, as Daniel Aranda and Jerrod Long pushed the ball all night and got layups off of the transition game and many of Artesia’s 22 turnovers.
“Our big deal is that we want to push the ball more,” Portales coach Mark Gallegos said. “We have the kids to push the ball up the floor.”
The pace of the game certainly fit Long, who played a running game at Floyd High School for three years before transferring to Portales.
“It’s something I’m more used to,” said Long, who scored a season-high 19 points. “We (also) did a pretty good job of boxing out, but we could have been a little better.”
When Long wasn’t hitting, Aranda was. The senior finished with 24 points and hit a pair of free throws to push Portales’ final margin to three with seven seconds remaining.
The Bulldogs had a last chance to tie, but a final 3-point attempt was long from freshman Derek Montoya, who led Artesia with 15 points.
Junior Chris Speck added 11 and Jones nine for Artesia, which got 41 of its 55 points from non-seniors.
“I think with the guys we have, we have to play each game to get better,” Montoya said. “It’s going to take a while for the kids to gel and learn a new system.”
Both teams are back in action Tuesday. The Bulldogs host Ruidoso, while Portales travels to Clovis.
Clovis is going to be tough,” Gallegos said. “I know Clovis is playing without Jaden (Isler), but they’re tough inside.
“Clovis just plays well together. They’re not as talented as they have been in the past, but they’ve got that team unity. Teams like that go far.”