The Eastern New Mexico News - Serving Clovis, Portales and the Surrounding Communities

Former Rams reminisce

 

January 7, 2018

Eric Murray

Current and former Rams girls basketball players and coaches pose together after Saturday's game against Lubbock Christian.

PORTALES — Portales High School honored several former girls basketball players and coaches during Saturday afternoon's girls game between Portales and Lubbock Christian.

For many, it was a happy reunion filled with emotion, as former players could still envision the days when they took the court at Ram Athletic Center.

Not surprisingly, at least two dozen former players showed up on Saturday, as they were — and still are, a big reason for the enormous success of the Portales girls basketball program.

Since the first NMAA girls basketball state tournament in 1973, Portales has won a total of seven state titles in 15 championship game appearances.

In particular, the best known era of Rams girls basketball was between the 2001-07 state tournaments, when Portales played for seven straight 3A state titles under then-coach Brenda Gomez — four of which they won.

One former player, Megan Duvall (then Kabrick, played for the Rams between 2002-06, winning state titles in all but 2005, and was a starting post player for Portales' '06 championship team. Saturday marked the first time in over a decade that she had been back to witness a Ram game, and needless to say, she was thrilled to death to be there.

"It is insane. I haven't been back in (several) years. It's just so surreal walking into the gym, and seeing all of our state championships in here, seeing all of the girls that I played with for the first time in years," Kabrick said. "It's incredible. I'm so happy to be back, and the gym looks the same."

Kabrick, who now resides in Oklahoma following her graduation from Eastern New Mexico University, has many fond memories of her days with the Rams. In her eyes, great coaching by Gomez, as well as assistants like current head coach Wade Fraze, made that run possible.

In fact, she went on to say that the fan support back then was unreal, and while winning three titles in four years is pretty remarkable a runnerup finish might be one of her top memories.

"So my junior year, 2005, we lost to Santa Fe Indian School in the state championship game. It hurt so bad, I mean, it was just the saddest game ever," Kabrick explained. "But in 2006, my senior year, we played Santa Fe Indian School in the semis, and that was the best game of our lives.

"It was like revenge, we beat them by so many points and made it to state. But that game was more important to me than the state championship game, just because I wanted to get back at them. That same (school) year (2005-06), we won state in volleyball, as well. It was the best senior year ever."

Kabrick says that she still keeps in touch with a few former teammates, and is given the occasional update on how the girls team is looking that particular year. Gomez, meanwhile, now coaches in Texas and was unable to attend Saturday's event.

Kabrick says she hasn't talked to her coach in years, but definitely misses her. "I know she's still coaching, and I bet they're winning like crazy if I know her," Kabrick said. As for Fraze, he coached the Portales junior high girls teams for three years back in the day, which included many of the players who started that seven-year run.

Fraze then became a head coach in Texas for seven years, before returning to Portales as an assistant under Gomez. He, like Kabrick, was a part of that '06 championship team.

In the years since then, he's become the Rams head coach, winning a 3A title in 2014. For him, the program's success comes down to starting the kids off young, and it's the parents who take charge in the formative years.

"We had a stretch of several classes of girls in a row that all started very, very young and played together all the way up," Fraze said. "By the time they were freshmen in high school, they were extremely seasoned, and had played together so long. The parents — they coach them before we ever get them, and that's the foundation of our program."

Fraze said the biggest thing he learned from that era was to stress the fundamentals of the game, much like one of his idols — former UCLA men's basketball coaching legend John Wooden — always used to preach.

As for Saturday's reunion, he said that his current players were "all ears and eyes," when listening to what former players had to say. Those former players, by the way, had some very valuable life advice to give to those current players.

"It was great. They gave the girls advice, being where they had been. They based their life on Christ — a foundation on Christ," Fraze explained. "That was a common theme, (as well as) appreciate these times together, because it passes quickly and you look back with fondness. Just make the most of the moment and appreciate where you're at."

 

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