ROSWELL — The Portales High boys basketball team maintained its lead in the District 4-3A race Friday night — barely — and the Rams couldn’t be happier about it.
After leading the entire game, PHS sent New Mexico Military junior Zachary Nishino to the free throw line for a 1-and-1 opportunity with 0.7 seconds left and a chance to win it. Nishino missed the front end, though, and the Rams escaped with a 40-39 victory.
Portales (14-7, 3-0 district) won its sixth game in a row and 10th in the last 12 to maintain a one-game district margin over Lovington, which disposed of Ruidoso 69-54.
“We’re where we want to be,” PHS boys coach Mark Gallegos said of the district picture. “Now the tough part comes — Tuesday at Ruidoso and Friday at Lovington.
“Maybe this was a little bit of a wake-up call for us.”
The Colts (2-14, 0-3) are having a tough time after an off-the-field incident prior to the Class 3A state football championship game led to several player suspensions and forced the school to actually pull out of the game. It has had a carryover affect to basketball.
Senior guard Chris Carter scored 15 points for the Rams, including nine in the first quarter when Portales opened a 17-5 lead. Still, Gallegos knew his team was hardly out of the woods with senior starters Bo Gabriel and Chris Kirchner each picking up three fouls in the period.
“The second half we had a hard time scoring, and they got us in the bonus right away,” Gallegos said. “We couldn’t press them because of the way the game was called, and we got in foul trouble.
“We didn’t do a very good job in the second half of keeping them out of the lane.”
Gallegos said the tighter things got, the more boisterous NMMI’s student section became.
“Once the game got close, it got louder and louder,” he said. “I’m just happy to get out with a win.”
The Rams converted 9-of-11 free throws in the game, including 4-for-4 by both Carter and junior Chris Adkins. Meantime, junior guard Daniel Aranda grabbed a team-high four rebounds while Carter came up with three steals.
“He played a pretty solid game,” Gallegos said of Carter.
NMMI sophomore Connor Williamson led all scorers with 18 points, including three 3-pointers.
Portales 40, NMMI 39
Portales (14-7, 3-0) — Daniel Boan 0 1-2 1, Daniel Aranda 4 0-1 8, Chris Kirchner 1 0-0 2, Chris Adkins 2 4-4 8, Chris Carter 5 4-4 15, Jack Hale 3 0-0 6. Totals 15 9-11 40.
New Mexico Military (2-14, 0-3) — Andrew Cowan 1 0-0 2, Connor Williamson 4 7-8 18, Justin Richter 4 1-2 9, Zachary Nishino 3 0-1 6, Kelby Mann 1 0-0 2, Michael Sangster 0 2-4 2. Totals 13 10-15 39.
Portales 17 9 6 8 — 40
NMMI 5 12 10 12 — 39
3-pointers — Portales (1): Carter. New Mexico Military (3): Williamson 3. JV score — Portales 40, New Mexico Military 34.