By Kevin Wilson
SHALLOWATER, Texas — This early in the high school basketball season, eight games is a considerable amount of experience. It proved more than enough for Trinity Christian to finish off the Portales Rams.
Forward Alex Knight led all scorers with 13 points, and a fine-tuned Lions team dominated the second half in a 55-35 win over Portales in Friday night’s title game of the Shallowater Shootout.
In handing Portales its first defeat of the season, Trinity Christian held the Rams without a double-figure scorer and had second-half runs of 7-0, 10-0 and 8-0.
“I’m not sure we’ll play a better team in 3A this year, as well-disciplined as that team is,” Portales coach Mark Gallegos said.
With a 30-25 lead at the half, the Lubbock-based Lions (9-3) blew the contest open by concentrating on Portales junior Chris Carter. Carter scored eight points in the first half, but was held scoreless after halftime with a series of double-teams.
“We were just more aware of where 32 (Carter) was,” Lions coach Todd Duncan said. “We felt like in the first half, we lost him on screens.”
Without its top threat on offense — Carter had led Portales with 30 points in the two previous Shootout games — the Rams couldn’t mount an offense consistent enough to stay with the athletic Lions.
“You have to expend so much energy against a team like that (on defense),” Gallegos said, “it’s tough to get anything going on offense.”
Knight did most of his damage in an 8-1 run that bridged the first and second quarters. Knight had a back-door layup to close out a 16-14 first quarter, then scored on the Lions’ first two second-quarter possessions to pad a lead they would never relinquish.
Between an effective press and a 22-6 advantage in free-throw attempts, the Lions were able to increase the second-half lead and concentrate on not letting Portales’ spot-up shooters get open looks.
“Our goal at halftime was to not let them hit a three in the second half,” Duncan said, “and I think we accomplished that.”
Gallegos felt that the Rams just need better execution on offense as the season goes on, but he thought a 2-1 record going into Tuesday’s game at Roswell could be a look ahead to “some bright days.”
“If you look at the big picture,” Gallegos said, “we’re starting to come together. They’re starting to find their identity.”
Carter and Nathan Brown each had eight to tie for the Portales team lead, while Tyler Hill and Tyler Claborn had nine each for Trinity Christian.