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

Rams find tough task with Littlefield

 

December 22, 2019



PORTALES — Portales boys coach Rickie McBroom figured he had bigger things to worry about on Friday night than a basketball game.

McBroom, who underwent surgery for prostate cancer in October, said he received word before Friday’s contest against Littlefield that everything has checked out well in his treatment. That made Friday’s hard-fought 60-54 loss to the Wildcats at the Ram Athletic Center at least a bit easier to accept.

PHS (2-3) trailed all the way except for two early ties, but kept pushing Littlefield (13-1) until junior guard Jeremiah Salazar hit a pair of free throws with four seconds left for a five-point lead.

“We had opportunities to make some shots that could’ve made a big difference,” McBroom said. “We just weren’t fortunate enough to make them.”

Four players scored in double figures for the Wildcats, led by 6-foot-5 junior forward Tyree Jones with 20 points.

“This is a tough place to play,” Wildcats coach Bob Ogle said of the RAC. “I thought the kids did a good job of handling their pressure.”

Portales answered Littlefield’s early 5-0 run with one of its own, tying the score 7-7. But the Wildcats rode 10 points by Jones and eight from senior guard Andrew Valdez to a 20-16 lead after one period.

Littlefield never led by more than six points until junior guard Jeremiah Salazar’s 3-pointer made it 45-36 as time ran out in the third quarter. The lead reached double figures on a layup by senior forward Jayden Longoria in the opening seconds of the final period, but Portales kept clawing back.

A driving layup by junior guard Rico Diaz finally pulled PHS to 55-54 with under a minute left. Senior post Philip Blidi, who played well off the bench against Jones, then missed a 1-and-1 free throw opportunity with 44 seconds left, and the Wildcats went on to score the final five points.

McBroom said Blidi, a 6-4, 255-pound Texas Tech football commit, was effective in challenging Jones.

“He did a good job,” McBroom said. “He picked up a couple of quick fouls, but I think his strength and size was a help to us.”

While the Rams struggled most of the night from long range, the Wildcats — notably senior guard Andrew Valdez — made just enough 3s to keep PHS at bay. Valdez had four of the Wildcats’ five treys in the game, finishing with 15 points.

Meantime, Longoria added 13 points and Salazar had 10, including 7-of-9 free throws.

“The (3-pointer by Salazar) to end the third quarter was a big one,” Ogle said. “Any time you have four guys in double figures, it makes you hard to stop.”

For Portales, senior guard Kellan Hightower scored 15 points, and senior post Kenevan Bailey added 14.

The Rams could see Littlefield again next week when it hosts its 14-team Wildcat Classic tournament, from Thursday through Saturday.

“They’re really good; their guards do a good job,” McBroom said. “(But) if we’re fortunate enough to play them in Littlefield, I think there are some changes we can make.”

Portales faces New Home (Texas) in a 10 a.m. (MST) opening-round game on Thursday at Littlefield. Meantime, the Lady Rams take on Monahans (Texas) in their first-round matchup on Thursday at Littlefield, also at 10 a.m.

 
 

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