PJHS team’s perfect season within grasp

By Kevin Wilson

It started with an old banner, and has the potential to be a banner year for the Portales seventh-grade “A” team.

The Rams (14-0) enter today’s 4 p.m. game against Gattis with a chance to do what no Portales Junior High squad has done in 30 years — finish with a perfect season.

Coach Ruben Tellez admits that he is amazed with how well the team plays, and how it doesn’t depend on one scorer to do all of the work.

“Everybody seems to know his responsibility, his role on the court,” Tellez said. “We don’t have any heroes. Every game, it’s been a different person that’s stepped up.”

It’s also a matter of familiarity that helps Portales win, guard Lathan Lieb said.

“We pass the ball and we have fun,” Lieb said. “We’ve played together for a long time, and we played AAU (together).”

Portales has won all but two of its games by double figures and is coming off of a 53-7 rout of Ruidoso Saturday. The Rams jumped out to a 20-0 lead early, then backed off of the press and went to their bench.

None of the players go above 5-foot-10 — the height of center Eduardo Chavez — but they’ve been trying to reach new heights since Tellez gave them a challenge.

“At the beginning of the season, he showed us the banner,” said forward Jordan Hill, referring to a banner of the 2001-02 team that Tellez coached to a 13-2 mark. “He challenged us to try to beat that.”

Mission accomplished. Regardless of today’s result, Portales has beaten that mark, but now aims to be the first Ram squad to have a perfect season since a junior high girls squad finished undefeated in 1976.

“We’d be the only (boys) team in Portales that ever did it,” said guard Andrew Villanueva.

Tellez is quick to mention that the “A” team isn’t the only seventh-grade team with talent. He noted that the “B” team went 10-4 on the season, and only lost to other schools’ “A” teams.

“They have talent as well,” Tellez said. “I believe the future at Portales looks good.”