By Kevin Wilson
The Portales Rams wanted a good defensive effort, and a win to head into their final district game. Artesia gave both.
In a non-district affair, the host Rams had an easy time in a defensive affair against the Bulldogs, winning 37-25 in a game that wasn’t as close as the final score would indicate.
The host Rams shot just 28 percent (7-of-25) for the night, but didn’t need a strong offensive effort to beat Artesia (4-17), which needed 22 minutes to reach double figures.
“You take it any way you can get it at this point,” Portales coach Mark Gallegos said of the win. “I thought we played a pretty good defensive first half and even part of the third quarter, so I can’t be disappointed with that.”
Portales (8-14) started slow, but put the game away with a 15-2 run that took up most of the second and third quarters. By the time Artesia got to 11 points on a pair of free throws from Josh Cannon, they trailed by 17 points.
“We’ve had trouble scoring all year,” Artesia coach Paul Kirkwood said. “We play good defense, and that was pretty apparent. They had to run their offense over and over against us to get good looks, but when they finally did get them, they knocked them down.”
Portales enjoyed its biggest lead midway through the fourth quarter, when Bo Gabriel hit a 3-pointer to stretch the lead to 33-13. Gabriel, who finished with four points, thought the defensive effort was the type the Rams need to duplicate Friday night at New Mexico Military Institute.
“It gets us back on the winning track, gives us some confidence,” Gabriel said. “We had four pretty good games defensively before Lovington (Friday), but we just broke down. (Allowing) 25 points in (the first) quarter is terrible.”
Artesia needed the entire game to reach that total, as A’Jay Booker scored on a buzzer-beating layup. The Bulldogs shot 7-of-24 from the field and had 25 turnovers.
“Artesia’s just a little bit undermanned. They do a good job of trying to shorten the game and they know how to play (against) our man offense.”
Booker led Artesia with nine points. No player reached double figures for either side, with Chris Carter tallying a team-high seven for the Rams.
Chris Kirchner scored six for the Rams while Nathan Brown and Russell Knudson had five each.
The Rams will end the regular season on the road, where they hope to avenge last weeks’ 31-30 loss to NMMI.
“Our kids will be hungry to go up there and play,” Gallegos said. “We did not play well offensively last time. I hope the cadets come out — that’s an environment you want to play in.”
In the junior varsity contest, Portales allowed just one point in the second half and blew out Artesia 56-18. Daniel Boan led the JV squad with 15 points while Chris Adkins added 13.