The Roswell Coyotes struck early Friday at the Ram Athletic Center and managed to hold Portales off for a 70-61 win.
The Coyote win evened the series to 1-1 between the two teams this season.
The Coyotes (15-3), ranked No. 3 in class 4A, scored the game’s first 13 points. Two baskets by senior Malcolm Wiggins and one by senior Jonathan Ervin at the end of the first quarter put Portales in a 23-6 hole.
“You can’t start slow like that against a team like Roswell High,” said Portales coach Mark Gallegos. “We made some real uncharacteristic turnovers there early and it hurt us.”
Portales (11-6) managed to cut the Roswell lead to 10 just before the half as Ram senior Stephen Shields popped back-to-back 3-pointers to make it 38-28, but Wiggins slipped through for another bucket at the buzzer to make it 40-28.
Roswell set a more reserved pace in the second half as Portales closed to within 42-37 midway through the third quarter on senior Andrew Villanueva’s score. Portales stayed within striking distance the rest of the way but couldn’t narrow the lead further.
“I told the team at the half to just take it one possession at a time,” Gallegos said. “We got it down to five there, but just couldn’t get it done.”
Coyote senior Deyton DeLaCerda paced the Coyotes with a game-high 21 points. Ervin scored 20 and Wiggins 14.
Gallegos praised the play of DeLaCerda, saying the senior guard is perhaps the best player in 4A.
Portales, which edged Roswell 57-55 in early December, got 15 points from Shields, including three 3-pointers, and 14 apiece from Villanueva and junior Phoenix Russell.
“Russell plays so hard he’s like our engine out there,” said Gallegos, noting that what the junior provides doesn’t always show up on the stat sheet. “We’ve got to get that from everybody.”
Gallegos said it would be important for his team to learn quickly from Friday’s loss and take that into district play, saying Roswell wouldn’t be that different from district rival Lovington.
Portales faces 2A Texico on Tuesday before opening its district schedule in Ruidoso on Friday, and then travels to Lovington on Feb. 8.