By Mickey Winfield, PNT Staff Writer
Editor’s Note: This is the first in a three-part series about the year in sports locally.
The birth of a new sports year in Roosevelt County began with the death of a local coaching legend, followed by the announcement of a new Zia basketball coach and a tennis state championship coronation after two Portales girls dominated opponents throughout the season.
Spring-time started on a sad note as long-time Dora and Portales boys basketball coach and administrator Benny Stockton died March 15 at the age of 68. Stockton coached at Dora and Portales before be became Portales High School’s athletic director, a position he held for 15 years. After retiring, he assisted Wayne Moore with the Eastern New Mexico University Zia basketball team.
“I cannot tell you the number of people that have come through and told us how much they love him,” Stockton’s sister Sharon Janecka said. “I’ve heard grown men cry the past couple of days.”
Moore also remembered his friend and colleague.
“He had a great basketball mind and he was a great teacher of the game.”
In early April, ENMU athletic director Mike Maguire announced the hiring of former Texas Tech women’s assistant Linden Weese as the new Zia head coach. Weese was officially introduced to Portales April 9 at Greyhound Arena after Dan Buzard’s contract was not renewed following four years as Zia head coach and 13 more as an assistant. Weese served at Texas Tech for 23 seasons under head coach Marsha Sharp, including the Lady Red Raider’s national championship year of 1993.
Weese also served the Texas Tech women’s program as recruiting coordinator.
“I’m very excited and I know the team is,” Zia forward Elizabeth Richards said. “I feel blessed to have coach Weese here, and I think he’ll have a great program.”
“I watched basketball games (last season as a spectator) from a different point of view,” Weese said. “I just like the kind of kids we have on this team. I’m going to take a look and see what our needs are, and go from there.”
In Weese’s first year as head coach of the Zias, the ENMU women have started this season 7-3.
As April showers turned to May flowers, two Portales girls won a state championship on the tennis courts. Sophomore Bethany Self and junior Ella Erf completed an undefeated season with a two-set victory over Bosque in the finals of the Class 3A state doubles competition. Self and Erf dominated opponents all season, earning a 17-0 record after the state tournament. Both girls also went undefeated in singles.
“I couldn’t ask for anything better,” Portales girls tennis coach Michelle Wallis said. “We got here and competed. Both of them deserve this title. They work so hard.”