Portales senior Daniel Boan, left, takes the ball to the basket as Jamal Washington goes for the swat. The Rams earned the third seed in the state tournament by winning five straight games. (PNT staff photo: Jesse Wolfersberger)
The Portales Rams are on a roll.
In early February, Portales was two games under .500 and looked to be no threat for a state title. Since that point, the Rams have won five straight games, won District 4-3A, and earned the third seed in the state tournament.
Portales (14-11) will try to continue its hot streak against West Las Vegas (8-15) at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at Portales High School in a regional game of the Class 3A state tournament.
Coach Mark Gallegos said his biggest challenge right now is trying to keep his team hot despite not having any games on the schedule.
“We’re used to playing a lot,” Gallegos said. “We’re just trying to get some game-type speed in. This time of year, you’d really like to be playing. I don’t mind having time to work; I always like to work on stuff. But right now you’d like to be playing, especially because the roll that we’re on.”
A big part of the Rams’ streak is how well they have played at home. Portales is 8-2 at home this season, and have been perfect there since January.
“We’re playing well at home,” Gallegos said. “We’ve had some great crowds and we’ve fed off that. Our student body has been really excited. I’ve had kids stop me in the hallways, who I don’t even know, and say, ‘Coach, who do we play Saturday night?’”
The Rams drew a team with a poor record, but Gallegos said he does not plan on taking West Las Vegas lightly.
“They’re real scary,” he said. “They play in probably the toughest division and they’ve played everybody tough. They’re a young team, but they are very scary. We’ve got to do what we’ve done; step on ‘em, stay on the lead, and let our home court advantage and the momentum carry us to the end of the game.”
Saturday, win or lose, will be the final home game for the Rams this season. Senior Daniel Boan said that is a fact he does not want to think about.
“It kinda sucks,” Boan said. “I wish it wasn’t our last home game. We play good at home. The fans come out and cheer us on and we have a tendency to play pretty well at home.”
The third seed in the state tournament seems unlikely for a team that, as late as Feb. 17, was a .500 team.
“I’m proud of my kids for playing us into that three spot,” Gallegos said. “We put ourselves in a tough position early in the year, but I’m proud of our kids for working their way to that. They worked hard for it and hopefully that will serve them even when they’re not playing basketball.”
Boan said the turnaround was sparked by the team’s chemistry.
“We’re playing as a team, we’re a family,” Boan said. “We’re practicing really hard and we’ve been shooting the ball really well. We’re just playing as a family.”