ALBUQUERQUE — Portales has trouble with Class 2A teams in the past at the Hope Christian Invitational.
Not this year.
Portales beat Rehoboth 60-45 Friday in the semifinals and will meet top-ranked Hope Christian in today’s 7:30 p.m. final. Hope clobbered Hatch Valley 81-53 in the late semifinal.
“That’s why we come up here, to see where we’re at and measure ourselves,” Portales coach Mark Gallegos said. “We’ll get a shot at them now and then we’ll roll the dice and try to get to the state tournament.”
It’ll be Portales’ first appearance in the Hope Christian finals. The last two years, the Rams (9-6) were eliminated from title contention each time by Class 2A Navajo Pine in earlier rounds.
After the Rams jumped out to an 11-point lead midway through the second quarter, Rehoboth (12-2) also made things uncomfortable for Portales — for a while.
Josh Holwerda, who finished with 16 points, fuel an 11-2 Lynx run before halftime that narrowed the deficit to two. Rehoboth and Portales mostly traded baskets to start the third quarter, with the Lynx leading 31-29 with 4:10 remaining in the period.
However, Marcus Slocum’s basket kicked off an 8-0 run for Portales, followed by a steal and layup by Nick Bliss.
Bliss and Slocum, Portales’ scoring leaders with 20 and 18 points, respectively, also came up big in a 15-3 fourth-quarter run that essentially sealed the game.
“They’re very athletic — a strong team that plays phenomenal defense,” Lynx coach Kevin Zwiers said. “That was the key to tonight’s game. They shut down our scorers when they needed to and they turned us over.”
Gallegos alternated three players — Billy Good, Walker Partin and Slocum — on Holwerda, a 6-foot-7 senior post for the Lynx. Holwerda fouled out while trying to keep the likes of Slocum from slashing to the hoop on the other end.
“He’s a good player, but we tried to get him into a little bit of foul trouble because he wouldn’t come away from the basket,” Gallegos said. “Our objective was to pound it inside and see if we could get some fouls. Luckily for us, it worked out and the kids executed the game plan.”
Portales won its opening-round game by five points over Class 2A Mora on Thursday.
“I was real proud of the kids making adjustments,” Gallegos said. “We’ve grown up. Earlier in the year, we might not have been able to win the last two games because we weren’t organized. Now, the practice time is paying off to where we can do different things at different times of the game.”