By Kevin Wilson
For that small period of time where basketball practices overlapped the end of volleyball season, it felt like there were two coaches named Gomez at each Lady Ram basketball practice.
While Brenda Gomez got ready for her 17th season as Portales coach, senior point guard Roni was doing on-the-court training with her younger teammates. While every other returning member of the varsity was busy winning a state volleyball championship, Roni was getting a small taste of coaching as the basketball team prepares to defend its own 3A title.
“It was hard,” the younger Gomez said. “I tried to talk to them and teach them as much as I could. They all improved a lot in the two weeks we were together.”
The Lady Rams will take the court Tuesday against Artesia, the first of a dozen games in a loaded December schedule. Portales also hosts Clovis (Saturday) and Roswell (Dec. 9), in addition to tournaments in Rio Rancho, Santa Fe and Clovis.
Roni said she would like to be a coach like her mother, and she’ll go to college for just that purpose. Like some of her teammates, her college decision will likely depend on where she could play basketball. She knows that a 20-point average this season would help those chances, but she’d rather go out with three Class 3A titles in four seasons.
“We go at it as a team,” Roni Gomez said. “We’re all better working with each other and not being selfish at all.”
It’s a team-first attitude that has Brenda Gomez confident that Portales will defend its 3A title as most of the state expects.
“I think that everyone knows each individual goes as far as the team goes,” Coach Gomez said. “If they get selfish, they won’t shine as much as they will as a team.”
Many individuals could shine this season, with three senior guards (Gomez, Erika Cook and Kassandra Richards) capable of scoring 20 on any given night and a pair of sophomore posts (Morgan Hill and Megan Kabrick) tall enough and quick enough to draw a double team on nearly every possession.
“I do (think we can repeat),” Roni Gomez said. “We’ve got a good point guard, two good shooting guards and two posts that just dominate.”
Portales has several spots to fill, thanks to the graduation of four players (Tori Carter, Jennie Gentry, JoJo Miller and Jalissa King) and Felicity Pena opting not to play.
“They had a lot of time on the floor, so it will be hard to replace that experience,” said Gomez, who admitted that the starters will carry most of the offensive load in the first half of the season. This year’s squad will have five seniors, including Ashley Flores and Amy Archibeque.
Talk of a state repeat surfaced shortly after Portales finished off a 19-6 season with a 59-51 win over Lovington for the state championship. The Lady Wildcats will again be strong competition, a lesson the Lady Rams learned after Lovington upset them for the District 4-3A championship last season.
“I don’t know if they feel pressure,” Coach Gomez said, “but they realize they’ve got a target on their back.”
Talk of an undefeated season has also surfaced, a thought that Gomez downplayed but entertained.
“That’s going to be hard, it really will,” Gomez said. “Our schedule is going to be hard to go undefeated (with). But I think that’s something we need to try to hold ourselves too. If we go at it with the frame of mind to go as hard as we can, I think it’s a possibility.”