RIO RANCHO -- The Portales boys basketball team on Tuesday night checked into a hotel in the center of Albuquerque rather than near the game site for its Class 3A quarterfinal game.
Obviously, the Rams had intentions of getting to play at The Pit and Socorro didn't pose much of a problem in that respect on Wednesday. Portales (21-8) burst to an 18-2 lead and, after holding off a mini-run by the Warriors, cruised to an 85-59 victory at the Santa Ana Star Center.
"We get to play in The Pit (on Friday) and that's big for the kids," Portales coach Mark Gallegos said. "This group has grown so much and we learned a lot last year."
In the 2008 playoffs, the Rams let an early lead slip away in the quarterfinals -- at the same site -- against West Las Vegas.
The coach for West Las Vegas a year ago, Hamilton Doyle, was coaching Socorro on Wednesday. And, once again, Portales jumped to a quick advantage.
When Socorro (15-14) scored seven of the last nine points of the first quarter, Gallegos vented at his players on the Portales bench -- despite the Rams being up 20-9.
"We pretty much had control the whole game and let it get away at the end," said Nick Bliss of the 2008 loss in Rio Rancho. "We ended up going home early. We didn't want the same kind of pain we had last year."
Bliss led all scorers with 26 points while Billy Good added 16 for the Rams. Socorro's scoring leader was Zach Esquibel with 19.
Esquibel popped in four three-pointers in the first half as the Warriors actually chopped the large deficit down to seven points just before intermission.
Up 45-35 In the third quarter, Portales exploded on another 18-2 run -- just like the one that started the contest.
The game was a rematch of a regular season encounter won by Portales 60-34.
"I just remembered that they were pretty quick," said Rams' junior guard Shawn Carrasco, who finished with 13 points. "We just needed to execute offensively and defensively."
When the quarterfinal started, Carrasco and Bliss had several nearly-uncontested forays into the lane. Bliss scored eight points himself in a 14-0 first quarter run.
"That was clearly nerves on our part, because our kids our better than that," said Doyle, whose team was seeded 11th in the 16-squad 3A field. "We didn't come ready to play and Portales handed it to us. I guess this team (the Rams) was psychologically in our heads and we couldn't handle it."
After the game, the Portales coach explained why we was so angry while his team held a decided advantage in the first quarter.
"It wasn't pretty, but it was a win. People will look at the score and say, 'Coach, how can you say that?," Gallegos said. "But I know, when we play Pojoaque or St. Mike's, they will expose everything that we do wrong. I really want us to have a good shot on Friday."