By Dave Wagner
ALBUQUERQUE — Unlike the girls team, the Portales High boys won’t meet a District 4-3A rival in the semifinals of the Class 3A state basketball tournament.
The Rams will face a talented, experienced foe in today’s 9:45 a.m. clash at The Pit, however, in Pojoaque, which knocked out Lovington 60-55 in Wednesday’s first-round matchup at La Cueva High School.
Portales (18-8), which has won 10 of its last 11 games, is coming off a 67-46 win over Cuba on Wednesday in which the second-seeded Rams jumped on top early and stayed there.
“It would have been harder if it had been a closer game,” said PHS junior guard Daniel Aranda, referring to Cuba’s boisterous fan support. “But we kept control of the game.”
The Rams watched Pojoaque’s game against Lovington in which Josh Harris, a lanky 6-foot-2 senior forward, scored 19 of his game-high 27 points in the final two quarters. The Elks (20-7) abandoned their struggling 3-point shooting approach after halftime and began to pound the ball inside.
“They impressed me,” said Aranda, who led five Rams in double figures against Cuba with 15 points. “Their big guy (Harris) played pretty good, and they’ve got a couple of guards who can (shoot the 3).”
Pojoaque has been a regular at state in recent times. The Elks are making their fourth trip to the state semifinals in five years.
“They’re a pretty good team,” Rams coach Mark Gallegos said. “It wasn’t a surprise that they beat Lovington.
“Josh Harris is a heck of a player, and we’re going to have to work really hard to shut him down.”
The survivor gets the winner of today’s 1:15 p.m. semifinal between district rivals Grants, the top seed, and Bernalillo in Saturday’s 12:30 p.m. championship game at The Pit.