After a rebuilding season in 2009-10, Portales coach Mark Gallegos is confident he’s got a deep and athletic bunch.
But he’s got concerns going into Friday’s season opener that the Rams aren’t at Clovis’ level of deep and athletic.
“This is one of the quicker teams we’ve had in a while,” Gallegos said, before his 13th season as Portales coach opens at Rock Staubus Gymnasium. “But it’s still hard to match up with their athleticism. I think this is one of the most athletic teams Clovis has had in a long time. Look at Clovis 1-7. Look at the athleticism you can put on the floor.”
The more experienced personnel for each team — Portales has nine seniors and Clovis’ backcourt pair of John Dawson and D.J. Blackmon survived last season’s battles as freshmen playing Class 5A ball — doesn’t change the key to the game. Just like almost every year, the battle will be one of tempo between a patient Ram squad and a run-and-press Wildcats game.
“They’re very patient offensively and they run a lot of sets,” Clovis coach J.D. Isler said. “We’re going to have to be able to handle all that. We’re going to have to be able to handle that on not many practices.”
If Portales does have an advantage, Isler said, it’s practice time. The Ram football team did not make the playoffs, giving their hoops squad a two-week advantage on Clovis.
Isler couldn’t pick one particular Portales player to focus on, because most of the seniors contributed heavily to last year’s squad, which fnished 12-13 and graduated leading scorer Sean Carrasco.
“They’re kind of a team effort, like they always are,” Isler said. “They’re going to make you defend. They don’t take bad shots. We need to get the tempo going up and down.”
The Wildcats cruised to a 72-28 win last season, but later forfeited it due to use of an ineligible player. Clovis High Athletic Director Brian Stacy said he neglected to consider junior guard Deven Crockett, who decided not to play this season, as a transfer student because he lived in Clovis as a freshman.
Gallegos said the Wildcat backcourt of Dawson, Blackmon and 6-foot-4 Lathan Lieb will be the keys. He’s concerned because of Lieb’s size, but doesn’t know what to expect because Lieb is a streak shooter.
He does, however, expect a hounding press from Clovis.
“I think the biggest thing for us is to handle the pressure, full-court and halfcourt,” Gallegos said. There’s no secret, they’re going to get up in the middle of us and try to get some easy baskets.”
Isler’s concerns are interior defense and rebounding with the graduation of 6-foot-7 Logan Turnbow, and Portales will try to go with post-by-committee between Jesse Blue, Garrett Hancock and Trent Johnson.
“I think we’re deep and I think we’re athletic,” Isler said. “Obviously, a big concern is our size. We don’t have that one big person, so rebounding is a concern.”
Portales at Clovis
When: 7 p.m. today
Coaches: Portales, Mark Gallegos, 13th season. Clovis, J.D. Isler, 10th season.
Last season: Portales, 12-13, lost to St. Michael’s in Class 3A first round. Clovis, 20-10, lost to Valley in Class 5A quarterfinals.
Last meeting: 2009. Clovis won 72-28, but later forfeited the game because of junior Devon Crockett’s ineligibility.
Players to watch: Portales, Sr. G Stephen Shields, 5-10; Sr. P Clay Bonner, 6-3; Sr. P Jesse Blue, 6-2. Clovis, Sr. G Lathan Lieb, 6-4; So. G D.J. Blackmon, 6-2; Sr. G John Dawson, 6-1.
— Compiled by Kevin Wilson