BY KEVIN WILSON
CMI staff writer
Kacie Terry’s memories at Greyhound Arena are worth forgetting.
The senior guard, near the end of the Rams’ practice at Eastern New Mexico Thursday, could point to the exact spot a court over where she tore her left anterior cruciate ligament against Roswell High in the final seconds of the final game of Portales’ final game at the ENMU team camp last summer.
“It was really frustrating not being able to play volleyball,” said Terry, outfitted in her standard knee brace for Thursday’s practice. “I was determined to get back to play basketball. It was mostly a mental thing.”
Portales (21-5) plays tonight for another chance to erase bad memories on another court — The Pit in Albuquerque, site of the Class 3A girls state tournament. The third-seeded Rams can get there by holding court against Santa Fe Indian School in a 6 p.m. game at the Ram Athletic Center.
The winner will play either Sandia Prep or Raton in an 11:30 a.m. Tuesday quarterfinal at The Pit.
“If we will go out and do what we can do and be loose, we’re going to be fine,” Portales coach Wade Fraze said of the first round, and any other round should the Rams be fortunate. “There is no secret formula, there is no magic pill. If we play four quarters, we’re a pretty good team.
“If is the biggest word in the English language, but I’ve got faith they can do it.”
Following its semi-charmed life, with an appearance in every 3A title game from 2001 to 2007 and won four of the school’s six championships, Portales has only been back there once and is still seeking its first championship since 2006. Adding to the frustration is the fact that they’ve only been able to watch Lovington go back-to-back the last two seasons after finishing behind Portales as the District 4-3A runnerup — including 2012 as the No. 12 seed.
Now the shoe is on the other foot, with Lovington as the district champ and the second seed behind 26-0 Shiprock. Fraze knows that to get a title shot, Portales will have to pull some upsets and prevent some themselves, starting Friday. Fraze, a Portales assistant since 2005 in his first year at the helm, says recent history should teach the Rams not to take Santa Fe Indian lightly, despite a 10-18 record and five losses in its previous six contests.
“They have a strong tradition,” Fraze said of the Braves. “They’ve been state champ, state runnerup. They don’t have a great seed, but that doesn’t matter. Everybody team is tough and every team is dangerous. Somebody took Lovington for granted two years ago up there.”
Portales still does some of the same things it did under Fraze’s predecessors. The team plays some of the defense taught by Clay Stout, and playing at ENMU to get adjusted to a different court was a standard move by Brenda Gomez.
Fraze feels that each team is special, but he can’t help note he once coached assistant coaches Amanda Terry and Rebekah Mitchell — the latter a 2006 PHS graduate who is days from adding another member to the Portales family. Mitchell and husband Ky are expecting their first child, Mila Rose, around the same time as the second round of the tournament. The couple, both PHS graduates, are fine with whatever happens as long as their daughter is healthy, but admit a perfect scenario would be a daughter and a state title within the same week.
The pregnancy has done little to slow down Mitchell, who helped coach Thursday and even won an informal game of lightning before the scrimmage, and she said everybody has been supportive throughout the process.
“The Lord has blessed this team and these girls,” Fraze said. “The girls and coaching staff are like a family.”
No. 14 SFIS (10-18) at Portales (21-5)
6 p.m. Friday
Last time out: Portales suffered a 56-49 loss in the District 4-3A championship. The Braves lost to Sandia Prep 56-39 in the District 5-3A tournament.
Last meeting: 2012 Class 3A semifinals, SFIS 23-20.
Mutual opponents: Portales and SFIS have both played Mayfield, Moriarty, Taos, and West Las Vegas. Portales is 4-1 in those games, with two wins over Moriarty, while SFIS is 3-1. Both lost to Mayfield.
Braves players to watch: Kayla Joe, Jr.; Victoria Roybal, Jr.
Notable: Santa Fe Indian School is in a rebuilding year after reaching three consecutive title game from 2010 to 2012. The Braves won the first two, then were edged by Lovington in 2012. … Portales is 8-3 against Class 3A, with all three losses coming to Lovington. … Portales is one of four 20-win teams in the tournament, along with Shiprock (26-0), Lovington (22-4) and Hope Christian (20-7). The Braves, meanwhile, are one of four sub-.500 teams in the 16-team Class 3A field along with Wingate (12-16, 13th seed), Socorro (11-17, 15th) and Taos (5-22, 16th).
— Compiled by Kevin Wilson