With her cellular phone number still unchanged from her days at Portales, it’s never hard for Brenda Gomez to stay close to her former players and coworkers at Portales High School.
Now, in Texas, the former Ram basketball coach is reunited with something else — the state title game.
Gomez, who never missed the playoffs and won five Class 3A titles in 20 years at Portales, is back on the title stage, where her Robinson Rockets seek their first basketball championship since 1970. Robinson is a suburb of Waco.
Robinson (33-5), ranked No. 4 in the Texas Association of Basketball Coaches’ 3A poll, never trailed in their 51-35 semifinal win Thursday over Lubbock Estacado. The Rockets face upstart Argyle (20-14) in today’s 10 a.m. (CDT) championship at the Frank Erwin Center in Austin, Texas.
“I got a bunch of kids that could play,” said Gomez. “They were excited to play. We had some luck going down the road.”
Just like her Portales teams, the Rockets are guard-oriented.
The Portales girls have had their own success since Gomez’ departure. An injury-weakened Portales squad was knocked out last year by Santa Fe Indian School, snapping the seven-year state title game appearance streak Gomez left behind. But Portales is seeded second in this year’s tournament, and is hoping to start a new streak.
Portales High School Principal Melvin Nusser worked and coached along with Gomez for years. He said he wasn’t surprised to see Gomez have early success, but noted it takes heaps of talent and luck for any school to survive the field of nearly 200 schools in Class 3A in Texas.
“I would think you’d be surprised just to be one of the four to get to Austin,” Nusser said. “She may be the governor of Texas before she’s done, or at least mayor of Waco.”
Gomez said she stays in contact with her former Portales players and coaches with text messaging every few weeks, and feels the Ram program is in good hands with second-year coach Clay Stout.
“Coach Stout has done a great job, and the kids like him,” Gomez said. “I think they’ll do well.”
As for Robinson, Gomez thinks there could be a playoff tradition if they get good guard play next season. But she’s impressed with the support the Rockets have received in the school’s fifth tournament appearance.
“The community has been awesome,” Gomez said. “They’re great supporters, they come to the games and they’re so excited for the kids to be in the state tournament.”