Rams aim for blue trophy
Hope Christian expected to be biggest challenge for Portales
November 30, 2017
PORTALES — When a team goes from a state semifinal appearance one year, to a state title game appearance the next, the next logical step is to win it all, right? For the Portales boys basketball team, that's exactly what head coach Rickie McBroom believes his Rams can accomplish in 2017-18.
The defending 4A state runner-up Rams return seven seniors and roughly seven total lettermen for '17-18, with dreams of an NMAA championship trophy dancing in their heads. "If you look at our tee shirts last year, it said, 'Together for the blue," McBroom said.
"We put the same thing on it this year. We want to get back to the finals and hopefully finish it. We play in a really tough district — one of the tougher districts in the state. But, we'll have a good ball team."
Portales went 25-5 a year ago, and upset Hope Christian in the 4A District 4 championship game in Albuquerque. In fact, it was the first time in five years that the Huskies had lost to a fellow 4A opponent.
However, despite the win, Hope eventually got the best of Portales in the end, as the Huskies took down the Rams in the 4A state final, 58-46. Once again, McBroom believes that Hope will be the biggest obstacle for his Rams, as the Huskies are the five-time reigning 4A state champs, and have won eight of the last nine, overall.
As for last season, despite not winning it all, McBroom still looks back on '16-17 with fond memories. "It was a real special season. Our kids were extremely dedicated. A lot of them won a state championship in football, and that was very motivational for them," McBroom explained.
"They wanted a state championship in basketball, too. They were extremely hard workers, they played together really well and they did what we asked them to do. It was a fun, fun season. We didn't win it all, but I'm gonna tell you, it was a lot of fun."
Portales certainly hopes to keep the good times going this season, and with seven returning letterwinners, why not? Senior guard Tyrese Dawson leads the way, as the football team's star quarterback will also act as court general for the Rams basketball team, operating out of both the point and shooting guard spots.
Braden Bridges, who actually skipped football in 2016 to focus on solely winning a state title in basketball last year, returns to the four spot. Jase Wallace, meanwhile, is yet another senior who will be back, as he will play the three and has been praised for his shooting abilities.
Senior Ethan Self and junior Julian Urioste are two other sharp-shooters to watch for, while McBroom describes sophomore Enrique Diaz as the kid who "gets his hands on more balls on defense than anyone else."
Another sophomore and junior varsity standout from a year ago, Austin Davis, will be another combo guard who McBroom anticipates has the potential to be the team's breakout player this year. So while the Rams can certainly shoot, there still is one concern.
"Part of the key for us is that we're not gonna have the big post and the center, like we did last year," McBroom said. "We've got two kids, Vince Gardner and Isaac Gomez, that are gonna step into that role and probably share it quite a bit."
While size down-low will be a concern for the Rams, McBroom really loves what Gardner and Gomez bring to the table, and as McBroom went to explain, his Rams still have a number of players that are 6-foot and above — just none of the 6-5 or 6-6 kids.
"Isaac is 6-foot, but thick though. He has a way of creating space. This summer, he scored against some kids bigger than him, because he knows how to use his body," McBroom said. "Vince is 6-2 and long, and does a really good job of getting the ball up to the rim. Both of them have skills that will make them successful at the post.
"The good thing about Vince is he can step outside, also. He gives us that option. When he's in, we tend to run more guard-oriented, or five-out. When Isaac's in, we'll run that one-post set and some plays off of that. Depending on our lineup will kind of dictate what we're running offensively."
McBroom said that his Rams will primarily lean more toward the guard-oriented approach, but still wants to have that post presence. Expect the Rams to mix in three-out, two-in, four-out, one-in and five-out man offense quite a bit.
Defensively, Portales wants to press once again. However, playing up and down the floor and aggressive defense for 32 minutes will be predicated by one major hurdle that McBroom's Rams faced a year ago — conditioning.
McBroom's roster consists of several football players, including the aforementioned Dawson, Urioste, Bridges, Wallace, etc. With Portales' run ending with a 4A semifinal defeat at the hands of the Robertson Cardinals, the football players are still trying to get back into the swing of things.
Portales opens up the season tonight at Roswell, as the Rams have had just a handful of practices to prepare for the game. In fact, because of the Rams' football title a year ago, McBroom's squad had just a single practice before opening up the year.
Despite those challenges, however, last year's team overcame the adversity and McBroom can only hope that this year's squad do the same. "Last year's group — there were a couple situations where we might have lost some games, but, they just wouldn't let us lose. It just wasn't gonna happen," McBroom said.
"This year, I hope we have that personality and I hope we have those kind of kids that can step up in those kind of situations. I always worry — but my philosophy is, 'I hope we win the state championship in football, because winning breeds winning.
"If you look, our football, our baseball, our basketball, our track, our golf — all the boys sports last year, were in the top couple in the state in everything. We have a bunch of kids who know how to win. We've got kids that come in the gym every day, during their off-periods and shoot — just like last year's team."