By Mickey Winfield, PNT Staff Writer
Brenda Gomez doesn’t make excuses. She plays the hand she’s dealt, and usually plays it well.
After leading the Lady Rams to their sixth state championship last year, the Portales girls basketball coach finds herself with a brand new pair of hole cards, but one she thinks she can win with.
“They definitely know that (repeating) is something that’s expected,” Gomez said. “The potential is there, and it’s in their hands.”
Portales graduated Morgan Hill, Megan Kabrick and Ashleah Richards, the three main cogs in last year’s state championship run, so as Gomez noted, some changes are in store.
“We’re going to be a different team,” Gomez said. “Because we’re just not oriented inside as well as we were last year, but we still have some kids that can finish in the paint and we definitely have a good outside game. We’re athletic, but we’re not as big as we were last year. We’re just as skilled, we’re just going to have to change our game a bit.”
Sophomore Tara Johnson hints the change could make use of the Lady Rams speed this season.
“Even though we lost (some height), I think we are faster this year,” Johnson said. “We had speed last year, but not nearly as much as we have now.”
Johnson injured her knee in May but is on the mend and is expected to be cleared to play in January. As a freshman, Johnson was a big part of Portales’ state championship and Gomez said she expects her to play a key role in the Portales bid to repeat.
“She’ll be a big, big addition. Tara’s one of our big leaders vocally and physically,” Gomez said, “just because she definitely has the competitive edge.”
Gomez also singled out sophomore Dallas Russell, junior Bethany Self and seniors Montana Russell, Briana Hernandez and Amanda Terry as leaders she hopes will step up.
Hernandez also talked about the team’s quickness.
“We have a very quick team this year. We may not have much size but we are very quick, that will be our advantage,” Hernandez said.
“Our kids here are winners in all aspects — in the classroom, on the floor,” Gomez said. “They play really well as a team. We have kids that understand what it takes, and what we’re going to have to do to be there again in the championship game.”
The Portales girls beat Carlsbad last week in their season opener and host Clovis on Friday night heading to the Mel Otero Invitational in Rio Rancho Dec. 7-9.