ALBUQUERQUE — Portales’ boys positioned themselves about as well as they could Thursday for a possible run to the finals in the Hope Christian Invitational.
The Rams got off to a fast start, built a 25-point lead at one juncture of the third quarter, and coasted down the stretch in a 63-49 quarterfinal win over the Zuni Thunderbirds.
Portales (6-7) will face either Santa Fe Indian or Rehoboth, who played in Thursday’s late game, in a 4:30 p.m. semifinal contest today.
Senior guard Shawn Carrasco and junior guard Stephen Shields each had two 3-pointers and 17 points for the Rams, while junior post Jesse Blue added 11 points.
Portales led 45-22 after three stanzas before allowing the Thunderbirds 27 fourth-quarter points. Most of the Rams’ top players were able to rest down the stretch.
“We jumped on them early,” PHS coach Mark Gallegos said. “The last quarter, it just got really, really sloppy. We played a lot of kids, which was good.”
Gallegos admitted his team hasn’t had many 25-point leads to protect this season.
“We don’t even know how to act when that happens,” he quipped.
“Our press was good to us early. We got a lot of baskets in transition.”
Sophomore forward Jalen Yepa had 22 points and senior guard Jasper Laate added 12 for the Thunderbirds (5-8).
Hope Christian and Mora also won Thursday, and will play in today’s other semifinal game at 7:30 p.m.