By Eric Butler, Freedom Newspapers Correspondent
ALBUQUERQUE— As contemporary Christian music blasted its way through the gym, Portales’ players going through their pregame warmups knew they were in for something a little bit out of the ordinary on Thursday.
“It’s kind of different because we usually have the rap thing going,” said Rams’ senior Cruz Ontiveros, who added there was more adjustment to be made once the game started. “Our gym is a lot bigger than this and a louder, we didn’t have many people here for us today.”
But, Portales being Portales, a 57-35 victory over Rehoboth at the Hope Christian tournament in Albuquerque was accompanied by a traditional emphasis wherever the Rams go.
“It’s crazy to say, but I was kind of disappointed with us defensively. It was kind of an ugly game,” Portales coach Mark Gallegos said.
Portales (7-5) never trailed against the Class 1A Lynx and began to pull away from Rehoboth (6-7) late in the first quarter. Holding a 9-7 advantage, Ontiveros hit a 3-pointer from the top of the key with 2:47 left in the period. Ky Mitchell and Chris Mosier followed with baskets for a 16-7 lead.
The Rams got their first double-digit advantage by scoring the first six points of the second quarter – a run consisting of field goals by Partin Skyler, Mosier and Todd McBroom. Permanent separation from the underdog Lynx didn’t happen, however, until Portales registered a 12-0 to end the third quarter.
That period also marked the first extensive playing time this season for junior B.J. Kirvin. With Portales up 35-24, Kirvin scored a personal eight-point run as he most often proved too hard for Rehoboth to handle on the fast break.
At the end of the game, though, Kirvin showed versatility by canning a couple of jump shots. Not bad, said Gallegos, for a guy summoned up from junior varsity only recently to help make up for the loss of 6-foot, 4-inch Hunter Rackler – who tore an anterior cruciate ligament last Friday against Socorro.
Kirvin ended with a game-high 18 points while McBroom got into double figures with 13. Rehoboth was led by Daniel Morrison’s nine.
“Kids like that (Kirvin) have to step up and play,” said Gallegos, who then broke into a similar refrain. “He’s playing well offensively, but we talked to him defensively – because that’s what Portales is all about.”
“We’ve got a couple of guys hurt and he (Kirvin) came out and really stepped it up,” said Ontiveros, who finished with seven.
Host Hope Christian, boys state champ in Class 2A last year, moved up to 3A this season and is already the top-ranked team in its new class. If Portales faces the Huskies in this tournament, it’ll be in the championship on Saturday.
“He (Hope coach Jim Murphy) still wants to get some more upper 3A teams in this and we plan to keep coming after this year,” Gallegos said.