By Mickey Winfield: PNT staff writer
In a gym that has seen some fantastic finishes this season, there was no miracle ending for the Portales Rams Saturday night.
The Las Vegas Robertson Cardinals shocked a packed Portales High School gymnasium with a 36-33 upset of the Rams in the first round of the Class 3A state tournament, ending the Rams season.
“We just couldn’t get a shot to fall,” Portales head coach Mark Gallegos said. “I knew coming in they were going to pack it in against us, I just thought all the easy looks on the inside that we got, I thought we’d be able to finish those. It just wasn’t meant to be.”
The game opened with Robertson taking a 7-6 first quarter lead, before Portales hit 9 of 13 free throws in the second quarter, including seven of eight from senior Chance Sherburne, to pull even at 17-17 at the half.
The contest remained close through the third period as Portales senior Todd McBroom hit two of his three 3-pointers in the third period, and the score was tied 24-24 going into the final period.
The Rams (16-10) managed just one field goal in the fourth period before the final seconds, and made five of 10 free throw attempts in the final quarter.
“(We missed free throw attempts) at crucial times,” Gallegos said. “You’ve got to make those front end (free throw attempts).”
Cardinal sophomore Nathan Vigil scored six of his 10 total points in the fourth period to help Robertson edge past Portales near the end of the game.
Robertson senior forward Isaiah Archuleta led the Cardinals with 11 points, followed by Vigil’s 10. Senior forward Daniel Gutierrez added eight points.
McBroom led all scorers with 13 points, including his three 3-pointers. Fellow senior Sherburne contributed 10 points.
Robertson head coach Fabian Trujillo said that stopping Sherburne was a priority.
“I just had a good feeling tonight with our kids,” Trujillo said. “We knew coming in that we had to stop Sherburne, we were trying to focus on him and I think we did well. We’ve been a little unlucky all season long, but I kind of felt good about tonight.”
With the loss, several Rams played their final game for Portales High School.
“We just really didn’t come out and play tonight,” Portales senior Cruz Ontiveros said moments after his final game as a Ram. “I guess they wanted it more than us.”
“I tip my hat to my seniors, because nobody really knows how much hard work and how much time they really put in,” Gallegos said. “Every year I look at the number of seniors that we have and we’ll put another group in there and just keep plugging away.”
No. 13 seed Robertson (14-15) will play fifth-seeded Sandia Prep Wednesday morning in the 3A quarter-finals at the Santa Ana Star Center.