By Mickey Winfield, PNT Staff Writer
Portales boys basketball coach Mark Gallegos hoped his team would give a better effort Saturday against Aztec than they did Friday night against Carlsbad, and they did.
The Rams hit 10 of 16 free throws in the fourth period, and beat the visiting Aztec Tigers 40-35 Saturday afternoon at Portales High School.
“I felt like we got a better effort from our kids out there today,” Gallegos said. “I was proud of the kids today. I told them ‘no matter what happens today, play hard,’ we’re going through an offensive funk, but we’ll get out of it.”
The Rams quickly went up 4-0 against Aztec after senior Ram Skyler Partin hit two free throws, but the Tigers tied it up thanks to two baskets from Aztec senior Ryley Hegarty, but the Rams led by three after the first period, 10-7.
Both teams hit three field-goals in the second period, and Portales kept their 3-point lead at the half.
Ky Mitchell spurred the Rams in the third period, hitting two 3-pointers — combined with 3 points from senior Todd McBroom, and the Rams took a 5-point edge, their biggest lead of the game, heading into the final period.
Saturday’s game was junior Chris Mosier’s second game back from a shoulder injury suffered in the Rams football state championship game.
“It’s taken quite a while to get my basketball legs back,” Mosier said. “I get tired quick. Last night we didn’t play hard, and I think that gave us motivation to come out today and play good.”
Free throws still appear to be a problem as he Rams hit just 16 of 30 free throws Saturday, but Gallegos says the free throws will begin to fall, and he believes his defense will start to dominate as well.
“Part of (missing the free throws) is confidence,” Gallegos said. “We’ve got to focus, we’re questioning a lot. We’re not stepping to the line with confidence.”
After no points last night against Carlsbad, senior Cruz Ontiveros led the Rams Saturday with 12 points, followed by Mitchell with 9 points. On the other side, Hegarty led all scorers with 15.
The Rams (3-2) travel to Clovis Tuesday night and then head to the Stu Clark tournament in Las Vegas after Christmas.
“The kids look forward to playing Clovis every year,” Gallegos said. “It’s a big rivalry game. Clovis is on a bit of a roll right now, we’re going in there kind of limping just a little bit.”