By Kevin Wilson: PNT Staff Writer
Portales did everything it could on offense to close the door on 5-13 Goddard, but the nail-in-the-coffin shots just never fell.
So with the game in the balance, the Rams did nothing on offense, and it made the difference in a 49-39 win Tuesday night.
Portales (8-7) recovered from an off shooting night with consecutive layups off of steals midway through the fourth, then played keep away for the next few minutes, leaving the visiting Rockets no choice but to get into foul trouble.
By the time Portales ended the 2:30, 23-pass possession with a layup from Daniel Aranda, it led 42-34 with 1:30 to play and only needed to make free throws to hold off the upset from Goddard (5-14), one of many 4A teams that Rams are facing in hopes of securing a high playoff spot in February.
“We’re going to have to win a few for the seeding committee,” Portales coach Mark Gallegos said. “We have to help ourselves with good wins and get a win Friday night at Carlsbad.”
Gallegos said he didn’t like making the decision to stall in the final minutes, but the team made the best of the situation.
“I think the kids did a good job adjusting,” Gallegos said. “They took us out of our game. I was pleased with the way the kids controlled the tempo of the game.”
Gallegos said Goddard’s matchup zone — and the fact that the Rockets had only three team fouls — left the Rams with few other choices.
“Part of it was their defense, part of it was (Goddard only having three fouls),” Gallegos said. “We were having a hard time attacking that zone.”
Portales shot 16-of-35 for the night — respectable for high school — but missed point-blank layups at crucial times before stalling for the win.
“It’s always frustrating,” said guard Chris Adkins, who scored seven points for Portales. “We got good looks and we got the ball into the posts, like coach wanted. We got good looks, but we didn’t finish.”
Instead, the Rams were forced to finish at the free throw line. After the long possession forced Goddard to use up its free fouls, the Rockets fouled Adkins, who hit a pair of free throws to make the score 44-37 with a minute left. The Rockets only got a Justin Cooper jumper after that.
“We went into halftime and coach told us to hold them to 40 points and we held them to 49,” Adkins said, “so we’re proud of that.”
On the other side, Goddard coach Kevin Jones thought the defense was lacking.
“I just don’t think we played good defense,” Jones said. “Our intensity was lacking tonight. That’s part of our immaturity.
“Shots are going to fall, shots aren’t going to fall, but you have got to play good defense. That’s what really cost us tonight.”
It didn’t cost the Rockets for much of the game, with Portales unable to garner any type of offensive momentum. After an Aranda layup put the Rams up 6-3 in the first quarter, Portales missed its next 10 field goal attempts, helping the Rockets take a 17-15 lead in the second.
The teams traded the lead for much of the second quarter until an Adkins trey gave the Rams a 23-20 lead in the final two minutes. Portales would never trail after that.
Aranda led the Rams with 20 points, while Daniel Boan and Jerrod Long each added eight. Raul Renteria led the Rockets with 13 points.
In the junior varsity game, Goddard defeated Portales 45-44.