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

By Peter Stein
Staff Writer 

Portales girls edge Artesia

And Portales boys rout 'Dogs


February 20, 2019

PORTALES — However the rest of Portales’ basketball season plays out, Tuesday night was a benchmark for both the boys and girls teams.

With both squads playing at the Ram Athletic Center for the first time in two weeks, Portales’ girls escaped with a 58-55 victory over Artesia that gave them sole possession of first place in District 4-4A. The Portales boys rolled past Artesia 68-48, leading by double digits for almost all the second half and posting a crucial district win.

The two may have set the tone for the upcoming postseason.

You gotta have heart

In a tense game with obviously high stakes, the Lady Rams came through, as Mattison Blakey’s nearly coast-to-coast layup put them up 56-55 in the waning seconds, and they held on to win by three points.

It was all about heart, according to Portales girls coach Wade Fraze.

“I told the girls after the game, on paper they outplayed us,” Fraze said Tuesday night. “Artesia outplayed us in every respect, except in what I felt like counted the most — heart. The girls never gave up on the game or each other, and that’s the reason we were able to pull it out. It wasn’t anything statistic-wise because that wasn’t good. But the teamwork and the heart is what got us over the hump.”

Portales improved to 4-1 in district play, while dropping Artesia to 3-2 in district.

The biggest lead of the girls game was held by Portales, 35-27, in the third quarter. But the Lady Bulldogs gradually chipped away at that, and after closing to within 54-52, they took their first lead of the second half when Kyrah Gonzales’ midcourt steal led to a leftside trey from Brehnan Davis with roughly two minutes to go in the fourth.

The teams took turns not being able to score and it was still 55-54 Artesia when Gonzales stepped to the line in a one-and-one situation with 25.1 seconds remaining. Gonzales’ shot was off and Portales’ Taylee Rippee snared the defensive board. She zipped the outlet pass to Blakey who drove almost the entire distance of the court for a layup that gave Portales a 56-55 advantage.

“I was thinking there were 25 seconds on the clock, we have to get a shot,” Blakey recalled. “(The lane) was wide open so I drove it up and shot it.”

Artesia then turned the ball over and was in a position of having to intentionally foul. The first intentional came with 6.9 seconds left, but Portales wasn’t yet in the bonus. The Lady Rams were bonus-bound on the next foul with 5.5 seconds remaining, sending Taris Rippee to the line. She calmly sank both free throws to make it a 58-55 game.

The Lady Bulldogs pushed the ball up quickly, but Portales’ smothering defense kept them from getting off a shot attempt before the buzzer. The Lady Rams had prevailed and claimed the inside track for first place in district.

And they had survived one of their biggest challenges of the season, survived a pressure-packed game.

“It’s nerve-racking,” Blakey said after scoring a game-high 25 points. “Since a lot of us are young, we don’t have the confidence yet. But we really pulled together and played as a team and worked really hard together.”

Boys cruise

Portales’ boys weren’t in quite the same position as the girls, but came through anyway.

Heading into Tuesday night’s game, the Rams were 1-3 in district play, facing an Artesia team that was 3-1 against district foes. But it didn’t play out the way those records may have indicated. Though it was cold and snowy outside, the Rams heated it up inside, jumping on Artesia early and staying in command the rest of the way.

Portales raced to an 11-2 first-quarter lead and remained in control by answering whenever Artesia seemed ready to crawl back into it. A Bulldog trey made it 11-5, but Julian Urioste answered with a hook on Portales’ next possession. Another Bulldog three was answered with a left-elbow trey from Urioste to give the Rams a 16-8 lead. With the score 16-9 late in the first quarter, a Phillip Blidi putback made it 20-9, and though a Cody Smith three brought Artesia within eight near the end of the first quarter, a Rico Diaz layup gave Portales a 22-12 advantage early in the second.

Portales led by a relatively modest 35-26 count by halftime, but had constructed a 49-32 advantage by late in the third quarter and led 51-39 early in the fourth. Artesia snuck to within single digits — 53-44 — midway though the fourth period, but Urioste hit a field goal to put the Rams up by 11. And after a Kellan Hightower steal ended the ensuing Artesia possession and created a new one for Portales, Urioste finished it by hitting an off-balance baseline jumper to hand the Rams a 57-44 lead.

Always an answer. Which was why Portales wound up winning by 20.

“It was a good game. We played probably our best 32 minutes of the year,” Urioste said after scoring a game-high 21 points. “We played good all-around defense, offense. Enthusiastic. It was a good game all the way around.”


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