By Karl Terry, PNT managing editor
The New England Patriots weren’t the only team to finish their season this past week just one game short of perfection. The Portales Junior High seventh grade basketball team only lost one game this season as well.
The PJHS team finished its season this weekend with a 3-0 record in the end-of-the-season tournament and a 17-1 mark overall. That record netted PJHS a fourth straight district title for in boys seventh grade basketball.
“It brings us together, and we have fun,” team member Zachary Blaeser said of basketball with his teammates.
The team said while they have enjoyed a successful season, they haven’t been able to just step on the court and run away with every game. They’ve found themselves battling back more than once.
“If we were losing we’d usually come back and win,” team member Reyes Calbert said. “It’s better than losing,” he said of the team’s winning ways.
The boys say most of the team has been playing together since they were in third grade, when they competed together in Clovis Girls Athletic Association tournaments.
The team says their type of game varies but with good size from Calbert and Emilio Baca they’ve been successful in the middle against most teams. They say they also like the fast break where Baca and Tyler Sites supply the speed.
“I had a good group of kids and parents this year,” coach Rueben Tellez said. “They worked hard, I pushed them hard but they responded.”
With a 12-2 season last year, preceded by a 15-0 mark in 2005-06 and a 13-3 record in 2004-05, Tellez admits that PJHS has a bit of a target on its back when it comes to the way other teams think of them.
“I told them we weren’t going to look ahead of the schedule,” Tellez said. “We had to take it one game at a time.”
With their only loss coming to Yucca Junior High early in the season, the team says they used the sting of that loss to motivate them to finish the season undefeated. Tellez said he threw a little extra motivation into the mix when he told them he would treat them to Mexican food at a restaurant if they won the district.
Tellez and his players say they appreciate the fact that they’re made to feel like a part of a complete basketball program starting in junior high and going through coach Mark Gallegos’ Ram teams.
Tellez says Gallegos hosts a camp for the players each year and regularly comes to their games and talks with them to keep them motivated. They also run many of the same plays and defenses that the high school teams run so they’ll be familiar with them when they get there.
The boys say they’re excited about the prospects of competing together in eighth grade and then on into high school. But Jacob Aranda summed up the feeling best.
“Hanging around with our friends and playing basketball is great,” Aranda said.