By George Morse
The Pojoaque Valley High School girls basketball team had its season end earlier than expected in the opening round of the Class 4A state basketball tournament when District 2-4A rival Espanola Valley came to Ben Lujan Gym March 8 to face the Elkettes. Pojoaque had beaten Espanola twice in two close games during District 1-4A competition. The upstart Lady Sundevils pulled off the upset with a 67-57 win to end Pojoaque’s season.
“Espanola came to play that night and they had prepared well,” Pojoaque Coach Seledon Martinez said.
Martinez begins his fifth season at the helm of the Elkettes. Pojoaque lost several key players to graduation, including point guard Taylor Roybal and forward Camille Cordova. The Elkettes return several key players who as sophomores were members of the 2018 team when Pojoaque upset Robertson High School at The Pit in the state quarterfinals and made it to the state semifinals, where they lost to Moriarty High School.
Seniors Ashten Martinez and Michaela Martinez were starters on the 2018 team and want to finish their careers back at The Pit. Coach Martinez acknowledges the key roles both play for the team.
“(Michaela Martinez) has a calming effect on the team,” Coach Martinez said. “She’ a meat and potatoes player. A steady voice that everybody respects. Whatever we need from her, that’s where we plug her in.”
Martinez does a little bit of everything for the Elkettes. She can shoot from the perimeter, get downcourt on the fast break, move inside and handle the ball at the top of the key. She is a steady scorer, usually recording points in every quarter to finish in double digits.
“Wherever they need me in that game,” Michaela Martinez said. “It’s been a ride. Up and down, but overall fun. I’m going to do the best I can to get back to The Pit like my sophomore year.”
Ashten Martinez has been a fixture inside for the Elkettes since she was an eight grader.
“She’s a stalwart in the middle,” Coach Martinez said. “A strong big.”
Ashten Martinez snatches rebounds and scores inside. She’s also adept at passing the ball off, though sometimes it seems she’s too generous.
“I’ve been told that I’m a “nice” big, she said. “I like to share the ball a lot. I’ve been told I need to be more selfish with the ball. It’s going to be a challenge getting the hang of that. I still want to involve my teammates. You can’t succeed with just one person.”
Point guard will be by committee, with junior Hennessei Calabaza and sophomore Anissa Herrera seeing time at the position. Calabaza has been a varsity player since her freshman year, while Herrera split time between varsity and junior varsity last season.
“Hennessei has been working really hard,” Coach Martinez said. “She’s been in the gym since the beginning of school. She’s on a mission,”
Michaela Martinez could also spend time at point guard to take advantage of her ball-handling skills.
Senior Alicia Sanchez started some games last year and will see time at shooting guard and forward. Sophomore Tonni Aquino saw considerable playing time at post her freshman year and brings size and a soft shooting touch inside. She is being mentored by Ashten Martinez.
“I want to teach her more about the game,” Ashten Martinez said.
At times, Coach Martinez may have both Aquino and Ashten Martinez on the court, which would give the Elkettes plenty of size inside.
“We might have to slow things down to take advantage of our strength inside,” Coach Martinez said.
Other players will likely emerge during the season who will contribute and earn spots in the rotation.
“They have come up through the system and can be counted on to do their job,” Coach Martinez said.
Pojoaque got off to a hot start last season starting 13-0 and at times being ranked number one in Class 4A. They were 23-4 and seeded fourth in the state tournament before being knocked off by the 13th-seeded Lady Sundevils.
Pojoaque opens the season Tuesday at Capital High School in Santa Fe. The Elkettes will play Bernalillo High scool Wednesday in Bernalillo. The Elkettes first four games are on the road. Their first home game is Dec. 10 against Del Norte High School.
“I’m optimistic,” Coach Martinez said. “As long as we play consistent ball and keep improving day-in and day-out. Take it one game at a time and work hard.”