By George Morse
Pojoaque Valley High School did what they needed to do in their District 2-4A opener against rival Espanola Valley High School Jan. 21 at Pojoaque. The Elkettes held off gave the Elkettes a 12-7 lead at the end of the first quarter the scrappy Lady Sundevils for a 54-45 victory.
“You have to do that,” Pojoaque Coach Seledon Martinez said. “Protect your home court.”
The Elkettes jumped out to a 4-0 lead at the start of the game. Espanola came back and a three-pointer by Destiny Valdez gave the Sundevils a 5-4 lead. Behind posts Tonni Aguino and Ashten Martinez, Pojoaque put together a 5-0 run before Espanola’s Miranda Salazar scored on a driving layup. A three-pointer by Anissa Herrera gave the Elkettes a12-7 lead at the end of the first quarter.
Espanola came back in the second quarter, attacking with a dribble-drive penetration, then dishing off to post Kiana Duran. She sank three straight shots from inside the paint. Her third basket tied the score 15-15 and a free throw by Rhianna Padilla gave Espanola a 16-15 lead with 3:25 left in the first half.
Pojoaque regrouped and picked up their defensive pressure. Three straight turnovers by the Sundevils keyed a fast break that resulted in layups and free throws by Pojoaque. Point Guard Michaela Martinez drained a three-pointer from the top of the key that finished off a 12-0 run by the Elkettes that gave Pojoaque a 27-16 lead by halftime.
“We got a couple of steals, made some layups and hit some shots,” Coach Martinez said. “They gave it to us, we gave it back.”
The scoring by Pojoaque and Michaela Martinez continued into the third quarter. She scored on a drive to the basket, then added a free throw to give the Elkettes a 30-16 lead.
”We needed to pick up the intensity and get back to where we were before that,” Michaela Martinez said.
It didn’t help the Sundevils that they were ice cold from the floor and didn’t score for almost six minutes. Just when it looked like the game was going to get away from Espanola, the Sundevils rallied behind their defense. Three straight turnovers by Pojoaque, a three-pointer by Valdez and a put-back by Erika Medina made the score 30-26 after a 9-0 run by the Sundevils. After a free throw by Ashten Martinez, Salazar drained a three-pointer that made the score 31-29 and Espanola was back in the game.
Pojoaque managed to recover towards the end of the third quarter. A pair of free throws by Michaela Martinez made the score 37-32 in favor of the Elkettes heading into the fourth quarter.
After a nice give-and-go basket by Pojoaque’s Hennessie Calabaza and a score by Espanola’s Anita DeAguero to start the fourth quarter, Michaela Martinez made a key play. Driving down the left side of the lane, she banked in a running layup and drew a foul. She made the free throw to complete the old-fashioned, three-point play that gave Pojoaque a 42-34 lead.
“I took what they gave me,” Michaela Martinez said. “If they were going to leave me open on the drive I was going to take it.”
Espanola made a last gasp effort after the Elkettes ran the score to 50-39 when Valdez canned a three-pointer to make the score 50-42 with time running out. Pojoaque easily broke Espanola’s press by precision passing where the ball was touched by all five of the Pojoaque players, ending up in the hands of Aguino under the basket for an easy two points. The writing was on the wall. Despite another three-pointer by DeAguero, Ashten Martinez hammered the nail in the coffin with a pair of free throws. The Elkettes sank seven free throws in a row in the fourth quarter to secure the victory.
Michaela Martinez led Pojoaque with 17 points. Ashten Martinez had 12 points and nine rebounds. Valdez had 11 points for Espanola.
“We didn’t play with enough energy,” Espanola Coach Joe Estrada said. “Sometimes we had enough to make a comeback. We need to come out stronger and have some consistency. Our work ethic and attitude is frustrating.”
The Elkettes travel to Taos High School Friday to face the Lady Tigers in their next District 2-4A game.