As the No. 3 seed in Class 3A, the Portales Rams can play it any way they want. They can be one of the top teams, with a target on their backs in the first two rounds.
Or they can be underdogs, set to prove they’re better than top-seeded Hope Christian or No. 2 St. Michael’s.
But Ram guard Nick Bliss chooses neither.
“That’s a lot of hype,” Bliss said of the rankings that have Portales hosting Crownpoint tonight. “We’ve got to worry about just playing basketball.”
At stake in the 7 p.m. first-round game is a trip to Albuquerque. Saturday’s winner faces either Bloomfield or Socorro in a 9:45 a.m. Wednesday quarterfinal at the Santa Ana Star Center.
Portales coach Mark Gallegos feels the biggest factors for the Rams (19-8) will be points in transition and how they manage Crownpoint’s perimeter threats, point guard Calvin Morgan and shooting guard Jeremiah Jodie.
“They like to get up and down the floor,” Gallegos said. “They’re your typical (reservation school) team. They play really good man defense, they play really good weakside defense.”
Bliss and Portales post Billy Good say the Rams would like to be able to keep the Eagles in the high 30s or low 40s. It’s a tall order since Crownpoint (15-11) hit the 50-point mark in all 26 games this season. But Good said the Rams could manage that if they keep the Eagles from getting hot from 3-point range.
“They’re really able to get up and down the floor and shoot 3s,” Good said. “They don’t have a lot of height, but they’ve been shooting the same shots pretty much all their lives.”
Gallegos said the Rams, winners of 10 of their last 11, aren’t taking the Eagles lightly.
“We’ve talked all week about how we can’t look past (today),” Gallegos said. “At this time of year, it’s one game at a time.”