In a clash of Sundevils, Espanola overwhelmed Sandia Prep, then Pojoaque’s routed Cobre, and ended with host St. Michael’s winning big
By Arnie Leshin
Sometimes, high school basketball tournaments have to find a replacement after one school drops out. Sometimes, a junior varsity will fill the spot. Sometimes, there’s a varsity out there without a tournament, so it will answer the call.
Other times, the tournament lineup is put together a year or two before the event, which means the tourney officials have no idea of how good or how bad the card will be.
That was the situation when the annual Lady Horsemen Christmas tournament turned into a round robin this time. Six schools play in three days, and there are two of them that don’t even meet, in this case Pojoaque Valley and host St. Michael’s, and Albuquerque Sandia Prep and St. Michael’s.
The games each day are scheduled for the same times, 1, 2:30 and 4 p.m., with Sandia Prep in the 1 o’clock contest each day, Pojoaque in the 2:30 slot and the Lady Horsemen winding up each day in a 4 o’clock start.
Albuquerque Cottonwood Classical Prep gets to play in all three and took on St. Michael’s in the closing game late Wednesday afternoon.
The final result wasn’t pretty as the Lady Horsemen turned a 31-6 halftime lead into a 55-15 romp. For St. Michael’s first-year head coach Martin Esquibel, it was fine. It put his team one win away from .500 (5-6) after losing five of its first six starts.
For Cottonwood, it was a no-go from the get-go as it dropped to 1-5, but today has a chance to win when it goes against Sandia Prep (1-6) at 1.
For the Sundevils, it was also a resounding loss, 74-35, to Espanola, and to complete the trio of games, it was another romp when Pojoaque rolled over Cobre, 66-44. Now the Elkettes (10-1) line up against the Espanola Sundevils (5-5) at 2:30.
But Esquibel thought Thursday would be different.
“It’s going to be a different ball game,” he said in regard to meeting up with the Indians (7-5).
Maybe so, and maybe good to have a close contest, for all the Lady Horsemen had to do in this one was to experiment.
They practiced moving the ball around without dribbling, they shot well, able to connect on 26-for-58 from the field, they were able to insert seldom-used reserves that included two who had been moved up from the JV in freshman Stella Valencia and sophomore Amelia Esquibel, and 10 of the 11 players made the scoring column.
Plus, they put the game out of reach early. Senior forward Jodi Gormley tossed in a 16-foot jumper a minute into play, and when junior forward Joelyn Fernandez knocked down a 17-footer with two minutes remaining in the opening quarter, it was already 13-1.
When Esquibel began sending in reserves, they were instructed to shoot whenever they had the chance.
“We said, if you have an open shot, take it,” said the former assistant under Martin Romero. “We talked about it at halftime and during a couple of timeouts, telling them, ladies if you have an open shot, take it.”
With all this, the Lady Horsemen still picked up a team-high 16 points from sophomore wing Carissa Padilla. Then there was Gormley scoring seven, sophomore guard Cia Alvarez six, Valencia four and Esquibel two.
As for the Coyotes, they didn’t enjoy the results, but are a young team and no doubt anxious to go against Sandia Prep.
It was Sundevils versus Sundevils when Espanola went against Sandia Prep, and this, too, wasn’t much of a game after Espanola turned in 47 points in the second and third quarters combined, turning a 9-all game into a 56-33 advantage after three quarters.
Ten of the 11 Espanola players scored, with junior guard Kaylinn leading the way with 17 points and Miranda Salazar adding 11. For Sandia Prep, sophomore Samantha Jeffries led all scorers with 22 points.
Pojoaque received six of junior Adrianna Quintana’s 10 points as it took an 18-7 lead, and Dallas Archibald and Alicia Sanchez combined for the Elkettes’ 50-30 lead entering the last quarter. They had for players in double figures, while Cobre freshman Skkyla Gock was the game’s leading scorer with 23 points.