By Kevin Wilson: PNT Staff Writer
Portales coach Mark Gallegos has said the biggest problem so far is that the Ram basketball squad has no defensive identity.
They had it when they needed it, and Daniel Aranda provided the offensive identity as the Rams defeated Class 4A Moriarty 66-51 Saturday night.
The Rams couldn’t do much against junior Daniel Pierce, who burned them for 34 points. However, the Portales defense forced 37 Pinto turnovers and helped contribute to game-breaking runs.
“Coach told us we had to go out with intensity and the press got us easy layups,” said Aranda, who scored 18 of his team-high 26 in the second half, including the first nine points of the fourth quarter to break open what had been a tight ballgame.
Pierce, a 6-foot-4 junior, torched the Rams (3-4) all night in the post and hit 10-of-11 free throws when Portales fouled him. The difference was that Aranda had help from his teammates — Chance Sherburne added 10 points, while Jerrod Long and Johnny Garcia had seven each for the Rams.
“I thought Chance Sherburne sparked us a lot and he had a big game inside,” Portales coach Mark Gallegos said.
The teams played tight throughout the game, with Pierce carrying the offense for Moriarty (1-4) and the Rams getting buckets off of the press.
Gallegos said he was happy with the way the Rams played in the full-court, but they weren’t able to create the same intensity in the half-court.
“We have to be able to get stops in the half court,” Gallegos said. “We got some turnovers in the full court, but when they break the press, we have to be able to make some stops.”
When Portales created the turnovers on the press, they paid off. Aranda scored a layup off of a steal 15 seconds into the fourth, then hit a 3-pointer on the following possession. Another quick steal by Aranda turned into a layup, and by the time he hit a pair of free throws, the Rams had a 50-37 lead, which they easily protected in the final 6:44.
Aranda, who has reached double figures in every game this season for the Rams, credited the Ram posts for the extra bit the team needed.
“Finally getting them back helped us a lot, Chance and (Daniel) Boan,” Aranda said. “If you looked at a lot of our losses, it’s been because their big guys outplayed us.”
Portales travels to Robertson Monday, in a game that Gallegos calls a “measuring stick” for the Rams’ chances in Class 3A.
In the junior varsity contest, Portales claimed a 71-33 victory.