By Mickey Winfield, PNT Staff Writer
Brenda Gomez runs from one side of the court to the other shouting instructions to her girls Wednesday night at practice in the Portales gymnasium, just hours before the team heads north for an annual competition against much bigger schools.
Gomez and the Lady Rams are by far the smallest school participating in the 7th Annual Mel Otero Rio Rancho Invite today through Saturday. Teams include Rio Rancho, Onate, Los Lunas, Sandia, Highland, Aztec and Clovis. Gomez says playing much tougher competition is by design, and it’s nothing new for her girls.
“If you expect to compete with that class of teams, than by the time you get to 3A then I think we’re a little bit ahead of everybody,” Gomez said. “When you play the more athletic, skilled and quicker teams then you’re able to execute so much better whenever that pressure’s not there.”
Portales senior Amanda Terry agrees, and enjoys playing the bigger schools.
“The bigger schools play a different game so it helps us be more aggressive and physical and it does help us get ready for when we get down to district and state.”
The Lady Rams are 1-1 after Friday night’s 50-36 loss at home against Clovis, and Gomez says she knows what she wants to see out of her team’s effort in the tournament.
“(We’re looking to) execute better, play defense much more aggressive,” Gomez said. “Don’t make silly turnovers and just go back to the basics.”
Terry echoed those comments.
“(We need to) be more aggressive on defense,” Terry said. “I felt like we weren’t as aggressive as we should have been (against Clovis). If we would have put more pressure on them, they may have had more turnovers and that would have kept us in the game.”
Terry also said the competition usually helps team chemistry and communication.
“Most of the time, we communicate well, but there are some times we need to talk a little bit more and let each other know what’s going on.”
Portales begins their side of the bracket today, playing the Los Lunas Lady Tigers at 3 p.m. Rio Rancho and Onate are on the Lady Rams side of the bracket as well.
Other first-round tournament games include Sandia against Aztec, Highland against Clovis and the host Rio Rancho Lady Rams against Onate.
Last year, the Portales girls made it to the semifinals of the tournament, proof that her team believes they can compete with the best New Mexico girls basketball has to offer.
“I think if you don’t expect a lot from your kids, I don’t think they give a lot.” Gomez said.
After this weekend’s tournament, the Portales girls travel to Goddard on Dec. 14 and Moriarty on Dec. 15, before hosting the Hobbs girls Dec. 16.
Mel Otero Rio Rancho Invite
Aztec vs. Sandia, 1 p.m.
Portales vs. Los Lunas, 3 p.m.
Clovis vs. Highland, 5 p.m.
Onate vs. Rio Rancho, 7 p.m.
Portales-Los Lunas loser vs. Onate-Rio Rancho loser, 1 p.m.
Clovis-Highland loser vs. Aztec-Sandia loser, 3 p.m.
Clovis-Highland winner vs. Aztec-Sandia winner, 5 p.m.
Portales-Los Lunas winner vs. Onate-Rio Rancho winner, 7 p.m.
7th place, 1 p.m.
5th place, 3 p.m.
3rd place, 5 p.m.
Championship, 7 p.m.