By Jesse Wolfersberger: PNT staff writer
Earlier in the week, Portales coach Mark Gallegos said his team likes to get an early lead and try to hold it. On Saturday, the Rams did that — it just took a little longer than usual.
The Rams forced 26 turnovers to defeat West Las Vegas 71-44 in the first round of the state tournament Saturday at Portales High School.
Portales fell behind early, trailing by a point at the end of the first period, but jumped all over the Dons in the second quarter to open up a 30-17 halftime lead and held West Las Vegas at arm’s length from there.
Jerrod Long scored 15 points and pulled down six boards for the third-seeded Rams (15-11).
Jonathan Bustos lead West Las Vegas (8-16) with 13 points.
“I was a little disappointed defensively early,” Gallegos said. “And offensively we missed some open looks. I told my kids, ‘I’m not worried about that kind of stuff, our looks are going to come.’ I knew it would take us a little while to get going.”
Portales junior Todd McBroom came off the bench to score five points and lead the team with 7 rebounds.
“I just jump in and try to help my team win,” he said.
West Las Vegas assistant coach Richard Tripp said his team could have competed with the Rams if they took care of the ball better.
“The turnovers started mounting and we weren’t able to make a basket,” Tripp said. “Their pressure got to us a little bit. We wanted to execute some things off their press, but because of their pressure, we weren’t able to.”
With the win, Portales advances to play next week in Albuquerque. They will face a very familiar opponent; the Ruidoso Warriors. The Rams have seen Ruidoso four times this season, dropping the first meeting then winning the last three.
“People are going to say, ‘Can you beat them a fourth time?’” Gallegos said. “And my answer is going to be, ‘Yeah, and it’s going to be on the defensive end of the floor that we’re going to beat ‘em.’”
Before facing the Dons, the Rams’ last three games were against Ruidoso.
“I don’t really like playing them,” McBroom said.