By George Morse
In 2008, the Pojoaque Valley High School boys basketball team stood on the floor of the Pit in Albuquerque proudly holding the State Championship banner listening to “We Are The Champions” after having won the Class 3A State Championship
It was Pojoaque’s first and only boys basketball state championship. It was also the last time Pojoaque would play at The Pit.
Since then Pojoaque has not advanced further than the State quarterfinals. The last two seasons, the Elks have not advanced to the opening round of the State basketball tournament. This year, they hope to change that.
Pojoaque Coach Thomas Vigil enters his third season at Pojoaque and this year has a group of experienced seniors who are familiar with his style of play. That style is intense on both offense and defense. The Elks like to pressure the ball. The offense is constantly in motion, setting screens and looking for the best shot. Vigil’s practices are intense and at full speed.
“You got to pick it up,” Vigil said loudly at the team during practice, interrupting an interview. “I want to see more intensity out there. You guys are playing like it’s an after-school pickup game.”
This season Vigil will have four seniors who have been learning the system he likes to run. They will be joined by what Vigil describes as a “Good group of juniors.”
Seniors Marcos Vigil, Noah De La Cruz, Dante Ortiz and Nathan Valdez want to end their career on the floor of The Pit.
“This will be the year,” guard Marcos Vigil said. “It’s our toughness. We’re mentally strong and we’re not going to quit. We need to stay united because it’s going to take all of us to win.”
De La Cruz will play power forward.
“It’s up to me to get rebounds and make smart plays,” he said. “We’re way more connected and I never felt so in tune We’re all ready to go get that win.”
Valdez runs the offense as point guard.
‘We run a lot of pick and roll,” he said. “Move the ball around until we find the open man. We know how each other plays and trust each other. Pretty much everybody can score.”
Ortiz focuses on defense.
“I’ll be guarding the other team’s star player,” Ortiz said. “Defense has been one of our main components since we started. Get steals, push the ball up court and get layups.”
Senior Jacen Lujan is recovering from an injury and hopes to return to the team before play in District 2-4A begins in January. He will contribute once he does.
Coach Vigil said Lukus Archibeque, Sean Aragon, Zach Hall and Andrew Garcia are the juniors that will be a key component of the team. Aragon has good court vision.
“Right now, I’ve got eight guys,” Coach Vigil said. “I’m looking for two more. You have to have an entire team. In every game, you are going to have different matchups. We have the foundation to win games in multiple ways.”
The Elks do not have a big star or standout individual.
“There’s not one guy that’s more important than any other,” Coach Vigil said.
Pojoaque competes in District 2-4A that includes Espanola Valley High School, Los Alamos High School, Moriarty High School and Taos High School. Pojoaque was 3-5 in district play last season. The Elks play in three tournaments in December, including their own Ben Lujan Tournament.
“We’ll be tested early and often,” Coach Vigil said. “We just have to go as hard as anybody else and let the chips fall where they may.”