Zach Blaeser and Daniel Sanchez converted back-to-back steals into layups with a little less than two minutes to give Portales the lead for good and the Rams held on for a 65-64 District 4-3A win over Ruidoso on Friday night at the Ram Athletic Center.
The Rams’ second one-point win over Ruidoso this season earned them a tie for the District 4-3A regular-season title with Lovington. The teams will meet Monday in Roswell to determine the top seed for the district tournament.
In the first varsity game, the Portales girls capped off an undefeated district season with a 51-27 rout of the Lady Warriors.
Blaeser finished with a team-high 15 points for the Rams (15-10, 3-1 district), while Zach Campbell added 14.
Ismail LaPaz poured in a game-high 31 points for Ruidoso (5-15, 0-4), including six 3-pointers.
“I had to do something to get the intensity up, get them pumped up so we could win.” Blaeser said of his steal.
LaPaz’ 3-pointer with three seconds to go brought the Warriors within 65-64. Ruidoso had a chance to win it after stealing the ensuing inbounds pass, but a desperation shot from the top of the key was way off.
“My heart dropped,” said Blaeser, who inbounded the last-second pass.
LaPaz sliced into the paint for several acrobatic layups, but it wasn’t enough for the Warriors (8-15, 0-4).
“Both teams played extremely well,” Portales coach Rickie McBroom said. “Ruidoso shot the ball out of sight, but what I liked about our guys is they kept at it and found a way to win.”
The Rams will play Lovington at New Mexico Military in a 7 p.m. tipoff on Monday, with the loser facing Ruidoso on Thursday in the semifinals and the winner hosting the title tllt on Saturday.
In the opener, the Lady Rams (19-6, 4-0) pulled away in the third quarter by outscoring Ruidoso 23-4.
The Lady Rams turned the heat up on the defensive side and forced a bevy of turnovers. Freshman guard Sheraya Cox, who finished with a game-high 14 points, was in on several steals.
“We didn’t feel like we were putting a lot of energy into it,” Lady Rams coach Clay Stout said of the first half, which ended with PHS leading 18-8. “So I told them to pick up the intensity and effort.”
Senior forward Madigan Gonzales scored 12 points for the Lady Warriors (8-15, 0-4).