Tony Parra: PNT staff writer
It was the third meeting in eight days for the Portales Rams and Ruidoso Warriors, but this time it had more meaning with the same results. The Portales Rams defeated the Warriors, 52-41, to claim the District 4-3A championship on Saturday night.
The Rams defeated Ruidoso, 66-40, on Feb. 17 and 40-37 on Monday. The win makes it back-to-back district championships for the Rams. Portales defeated Lovington last season.
The seeding will take place on Sunday afternoon. Portales coach Mark Gallegos said the Rams are guaranteed the first game of the state tournament at home.
“The kids were excited all week long about the possibility of winning back-to-back district championships,” Gallegos said. “I think we should be one of the top three seeds in the state tournament.”
Daniel Aranda led the offensive charge for Portales in the first quarter with eight of his 10 points. The Rams rumbled to a 20-7 lead at the end of the first quarter. A stout Portales defense held the Warriors to seven points and forced five turnovers.
“The biggest thing is that it’s (Ram defense) been that way in practice,” Gallegos said. “They beat us by 18 in Ruidoso and it was a wake-up call for us.”
The Rams came out with different defensive sets to try to take Ruidoso’s leading scorer Ted LaCoe out of the game. LaCoe had only two points in the first quarter. He was held in check in the second half, also, until he dunked the ball with 7:04 left in the fourth quarter was his first points on the second half.
“Everybody knows to beat us they have to stop Ted,” Ruidoso coach Billy Page said. “We had opportunities to get him the ball, we just didn’t do it. They did a great job of playing defense. We average 60 points, but against Portales we only score 40.”
The Rams took some momentum into the locker room at the conclusion of the first half courtesy of a botched play. The Portales players cleared out for an isolation play for Aranda. Aranda drove to the basket when suddenly he lost control of the ball.
That’s when Portales’ Jerrod Long comes into the play. Long grabbed the loose ball and knocked down a 3-pointer from the right corner with time expiring in the first half.
“When he was losing the ball he tipped it to me,” Long said. “He tipped the ball to me and I was able to knock it down. Coach stayed with me after practice and had me shooting 3-pointers from the baseline.”
Long led the Rams with a double-double, 13 points and 11 rebounds.
“Our defense was pretty good,” Long said. “We wanted to stop No. 20 (LaCoe) and we wanted to close out on No. 23 (Sergio Castanon).”
It was the fourth game in six days for the Warriors. The Warriors started their week by losing to Portales, 40-37, in a tiebreaker game to decide the top seed of the tournament on Monday at the New Mexico Military Institute in Roswell, then on Tuesday the Warriors defeated NMMI, 89-59, advancing to a game against Lovington on Thursday in which Ruidoso won also, 49-46.
Chris Adkins added 10 points and Daniel Boan chipped in with eight points for Portales. The Rams went to the free-throw line 26 times compared to 12 for Ruidoso.
Castanon led the Warriors with 11 points.