Lovington ended the Portales Rams’ string of five straight District 4-3A boys basketball titles last winter.
Taking the district crown back won’t be easy as Lovington figures to be one of the top teams in the state, however the Rams have a solid core returning.
Portales coach Mark Gallegos said the biggest challenge facing the team is playing together as a unit.
“We’re very deep and we’re probably going to have seven to eight seniors returning to the team,” Gallegos said. “On different nights it is going to be somebody different stepping up."
Gallegos said ball movement and pressuring opponents will be the key.
The Rams return three of their top four scorers in senior guard/forward Jesse Blue and senior guards Andrew Villanueva and Stephen Shields from last year’s team that went 13-14 and lost in the first round of the state tournament.
Leading scorer Shawn Carrasco graduated.
“If you look at the kids who played last season with Andrew, Stephen, Jesse, Garrett Hancock, post Clay Bonner and guard Miguel Vasquez, those six kids played a lot of varsity basketball last year,” Gallegos said. “Stephen and Andrew I depend on them quite a bit because they handle the ball as my point guards. I expect both of those kids to run the show and keep the team organized on the court. A lot of times I give them the freedom to call the offense.”
Gallegos said Bonner is their biggest and most physical player and will team with senior Trent Johnson inside.
“We’re going to be looking to see a lot out of Trent,” Gallegos said. “Garrett, Clay and Trent will work inside on the post and that should free up Jesse, who can shoot 3s on the outside.”
Gallegos said post Dustin Caroland and guard Keisto Ontiveros moved up from the junior varsity team and will add depth.
“We all played together last year so our goal is to stay together and work as a team,” Johnson said. “We have the talent and we have the desire. We just have to want it.”
The Rams open their season Friday at Clovis.