By Dave Wagner
The Portales High boys basketball team has one — count ’em, one — player taller than six feet.
That doesn’t stop seventh-year coach Mark Gallegos from thinking his team can get back to the Class 3A state tournament, something which hasn’t happened for the Rams since they won it all in 2001.
“One of the big things with this team is they’ve played together for quite a while and they work really well together,” Gallegos said. “Our goal is to get back to the state tournament, plain and simple.”
Senior guard Chris Kirchner, one of three returning starters from last year’s 10-14 squad (2-4 District 3-4A), said he thinks the Rams can turn it around with a relatively experienced roster.
“I think we should be really good this year,” he said. “Most of the guys who played last year were juniors.”
The Rams open with a trip across the Texas state line to face Muleshoe on Tuesday night.
Gallegos suffered only his second losing season at PHS in 2003-04, but even when the Rams won the 3A title they were just 15-12.
“We play probably as tough a schedule as anyone in the state,” he said. “We do that to get us ready for our district. It’s helped make us better.”
The difficult schedule suits Kirchner just fine.
“I think I’d rather play against a bigger team (in classification) and get better, than playing smaller schools and not get the competition,” he said.
Senior 6-footers Chris Carter, a point guard, and Bo Gabriel, a post, are the Rams’ other returning starters. Carter led the team in scoring (12 ppg) and assists last season.
“Bo Gabriel is an inside-outside kind of player,” Gallegos said. “When people watch us play, they’ll say we have four guards on the court.”
Junior Daniel Boan, at 6-3 easily the tallest player on the roster, and 6-0 senior Tyler Johnson will get time in the post. Another 6-foot senior, Jack Hale, will probably start inside after spending most of his time on the junior varsity a year ago.
“Jack really came on this summer,” Gallegos said. “He spent a lot of time in the weight room.”
Other backcourt help could come from 5-10 junior Daniel Aranda and 5-8 senior Trevor Ferguson. The only sophomore currently on the varsity, 5-7 guard Cruz Ontiveros, could also be a factor, Gallegos said, perhaps at the point.
“Cruz is one of the kids people don’t know about,” Gallegos said. “He’s picking up things really quick, and as the season goes it may be hard to keep him off the floor.
“I think it’s going to be hard for some teams to match up with us quickness-wise. We’re going to have to use our quickness to (produce) some offense.”
If the Rams can compensate for their overall lack of size, they could make significant strides toward their goal of a state tournament berth.
“We have trouble on the boards, but we play physical,” Kirchner said. “We figure as long as we work hard, we’ll be all right.
“We have a lot of athletic guys who can play the whole floor.”
Gallegos said the Rams hope to challenge Lovington for the district title.
“Lovington’s still the team to beat,” he said. “They’ve very athletic; they’re a lot like us, but they have more size.
“I look at us being right there with Lovington. If we take care of business, there’s no reason why we can’t compete for the district.”
PHS boys schedule
30 — at Muleshoe, 6:30 p.m.
2-4 — at Shallowater (Texas) tournament, TBA; 7 — Roswell High, 7 p.m.; 13 — Robertson, 7 p.m.; 17 — at Los Lunas, 7:30 p.m.; 18 — Moriarty, 3:30 p.m.; 27-29 — at Stu Clark Invitational, Las Vegas, NM., TBA.
7 — Bernalillo, 4:30 p.m.; 8 — Artesia, 3:30 p.m.; 11 — Clovis, 7:30 p.m.; 13 — at Roswell High, 7 p.m.; 17 — at Roswell Goddard, 7 p.m.; 21 — Carlsbad, 7 p.m.; 25 — Tucumcari, 7:30 p.m.
1 — Ruidoso, 7 p.m.-x; 4 ‚— Lovington, 7:30 p.m.-x; 11 — at New Mexico Military, 7 p.m.-x; 15 — at Ruidoso, 7 p.m.-x; 18 — at Lovington, 7 p.m.-x; 25 — New Mexico Military, 7 p.m.-x.
All Times MST. x-District 4-3A games.