ROSWELL — Junior guard Phoenix Russell hit two game-clinching free throws with 14 seconds left Tuesday night, and the Portales Rams held on for a 57-55 victory over Roswell High.
The Rams (1-1) erased an 11-point halftime deficit, outscoring the Coyotes 16-2 in the third quarter to take a 43-40 lead. The game remained tight during the final stanza, with Russell’s free throws giving the Rams a four-point cushion and allowing them to withstand a late basket by Roswell High (1-1).
The dominating third quarter followed a second-period defensive letdown by the Rams which allowed Roswell to score 24 points, many of them coming from the free throw line.
“The difference in the game was that we held them to two points in the third,” Rams coach Mark Gallegos said. “I thought that was huge for us. We doubled-teamed their best player, Deyton DeLeCerda, and that kind of took them out of their game.”
Senior guard Andrew Villanueva scored 10 points and senior forward Stephen Shields added nine for Portales. Coyotes senior Jonathan Ervin took game scoring honors with 21 points.
“We had balanced scoring,” Gallegos said. “We had a quite a few kids who played really well from the bench. They showed a lot of character and maturity when we were down by as much as 11 in the third (period).
“We made some adjustments during halftime and executed the game plan where we held them to two points.”
The Rams return to action with a 7 p.m. contest against New Mexico Military Institute on Friday in Roswell.