By Dave Wagner
Portales High girls basketball coach will miss the four seniors who graduated from last year’s Class 3A two-time state championship team, including her daughter, point guard Roni Gomez.
But she’s optimistic as the Lady Rams begin practice this week for the 2004-05 season.
“It’ll be hard to replace the guards, but I think we have some people who are working to fill their shoes,” Gomez said.
Like many schools, the PHS squads are starting a bit shorthanded this week with the football and volleyball teams still in action. Boys coach Mark Gallegos will pick up several players after the Rams’ football finale on Friday, while Gomez and the Lady Rams will have to wait until after the state volleyball tournament next week in Albuquerque to get most of their players out.
Junior returning starters Morgan Hill, Megan Kabrick and Ashleah Richards are all still involved in volleyball.
One player, Joni Brakebill, suffered a broken leg in an automobile accident last weekend and isn’t expected to return until at least January.
Gomez, beginning her 19th season, said she has her largest squad ever with 25 girls out in the sophomore through senior classes.
Finding guards will be the key for the Lady Rams, who went 23-4 a year ago for their third state crown since 2000.
“I think it’ll be a fun year because we’ll have several kids playing different positions,” she said. “They’re going to have to learn to play all over.”
Gallegos, entering his seventh season, thinks the Rams should improve on last year’s 10-14 mark. They’ll build around seniors Chris Carter, Chris Kirchner and Bo Gabriel and junior Daniel Aranda, he said, and expect to get help from last year’s junior varsity squad.
“This week we’ll just try to get in a lot of fundamentals stuff and build for next week when we have everybody,” Gallegos said. “Most of the time we don’t get to start this early. Usually, we’ve got about three or four days to get ready for the first game.
“We fully expect to get back to state this year. Your goal is to get there first, and then you never know what’ll happen.”
The Rams, who won the 3A state title in 2001, have 19 boys out in the top three classes and most are familiar with Gallegos’ system.
“All these kids have been with us four or five or six years, going back to seventh grade,” he said. “They know what to expect and they know what we’re doing.”
The Lady Rams open the season at home on Nov. 23 against Class 5A Carlsbad. The boys, who have a three-way scrimmage at Artesia with Tularosa scheduled for Nov. 22, open their season on Nov. 30 at Muleshoe, Texas.