Espanola Valley tops Rams for fifth place

PNT staff

LAS VEGAS, N.M. — The Portales Rams traveled north to gain some valuable experience against good teams in front of big crowds and they got that experience.

They got it at the expense of a nick on their record, though, as Espanola Valley took a 53-42 win over the Rams in the fifth-place game of the Stu Clark Invitational on Friday.

The Rams bounced back from Wednesday’s narrow first-round loss to Santa Fe High to beat Taos on Thursday. The task, though, was tougher Friday against the Class 4A Sun Devils.

“We got behind, and Espanola does a good job of spreading the floor,” Rams coach Mark Gallegos said.

Down 12-8 at the quarter, the Rams suffered through a lackluster second period on offense and trailed 20-13 at the half.

Portales was still within six late in the third stanza, but turnovers ultimately helped Espanola keep the Rams at bay.

Dismal 42 percent free throw shooting (11-of-26), combined with 22 turnovers, sealed Portales’ fate.

When they did get the ball on offense, Gallegos said the Rams had problems attacking Espanola’s 2-3 zone.

“They’re a very good basketball team, one of the best we’ve played all year,” Gallegos said. “We just can’t have that many turnovers and not shoot our free throws and expect to win a game.”

Espanola’s Lucas Montoya led Espanola Valley with 22 points, while Richard Valdez tallied 10 for the Sun Devils.

“We learned a lot about ourselves tonight,” Gallegos said, noting his team played part of the tournament without all its starters because of family commitments. “It was good for some of the younger guys to step up and get some experience.”