By George Morse
Local high school teams in District 2-4A begin district competition this week. Often referred to as the “second season” after the teams complete their pre-district schedule, district competition gives every team in the district a chance to qualify for postseason play and a ticket to the state basketball championships. The winner of the regular season district championship (determined by win/loss record against district opponents in district competition) receives an automatic spot in the state basketball tournament. In addition, the team that wins the post-regular season district tournament also receives a spot in the state tournament.
District 2-4A boys
The members of District 2-4A are: Espanola Valley High School, Los Alamos High School, Moriarty High School, Pojoaque Valley High School, Taos High School.
Last season, only Taos and Espanola advanced to the state basketball tournament. Espanola won the regular season title. Taos defeated Espanola in the district tournament. Espanola was defeated in the opening round of the Class 4A state tournament by Del Norte High School. Taos lost in the quarterfinals to Los Lunas High School.
This season, Taos and Espanola look to be the strongest teams heading into district play. They are the only teams with winning records so far this season. Pojoaque, Moriarty and Los Alamos will need to prove themselves during the district regular season or in the district tournament to earn a spot in the state tournament.
Taos is 13-5 on the season. The Tigers are led by junior wing Abdul Khweis and senior post Noah Armijo. The Tigers open district play Saturday at Pojoaque. When the Tigers are on, they are deadly from the field. It is tough to win on Taos’ court.
Espanola is 10-7 on the season. Espanola has been inconsistent this season, with some good wins but some embarrassing blowout losses. The Sundevils are a young team dominated by juniors and sophomores with just one senior, post Jon Garcia, seeing significant playing time. The Sundevils have shown a propensity for shooting three-pointers. When the Sundevils are creating turnovers and scoring in transition, they can score in bunches. On the downside, Espanola has also been guilty of turning the ball over and being beaten badly on the boards. Junior Jordan Duda has emerged at point guard and is a deadly free-throw shooter. Espanola opens District 2-4A play hosting Pojoaque Thursday at Espanola.
Pojoaque is 6-12 on the season. The Elks have suffered some tough losses at the buzzer to Belen High School and Sandia Prep School. No clear leader has emerged on Pojoaque, although lately senior Dante Ortiz has been their most consistent scorer and junior Lukus Archibeque their most consistent shooter. Sean Aragon has also shown signs of becoming a key player for the Elks. Pojoaque usually goes 8-10 deep during their games looking for who has the hot hand or the right rotation. Pojoaque badly needs a victory, having lost its last six games. The Elks open play in District 2-4A Thursday at Espanola Valley.
Moriarty is 5-8 on the season. The Pintos do have a quality win over Albuquerque Academy on their pre-district record. The Pintos have height and six seniors on their roster. Moriarty will have to prove themselves in District 2-4A competition. They open district play Thursday at Los Alamos.
Los Alamos is just 2-13 on the season. Los Alamos is coming off their second win of the season and it was a good one at Class 4A Miyamura High School. The Hilltoppers need to prove themselves in District 2-4A. Their pre-district record is not good enough by a long shot. Gavin Campos is their best all-around player. The Hilltoppers host Moriarty Thursday in their District 2-4A opener.
District 2-4A girls
Last season, Pojoaque Valley, Los Alamos and Espanola Valley battled each other during the District 2-4A regular season, taking turns defeating one another. When it was over, Pojoaque claimed first place, Los Alamos finished second and Espanola third. Pojoaque also won the district tournament, defeating Los Alamos. All three schools advanced to the Class 4A state tournament.
At the state tournament, it was the surprising Lady Sundevils who made the deepest run. Espanola defeated Pojoaque in the opening round to end the Elkettes season. The Lady Sundevils would upset Highland High School in the state quarterfinals before losing in the semifinals to Kirtland Central High School. Los Alamos lost to Highland in the opening round.
This season looks a lot like last season. Pojoaque, Espanola and Los Alamos all have winning records so far in their pre-district season. It looks like they will battle it out with each other again during the District 2-4A season. Moriarty and Taos are playing better this season, but are looking more like spoilers than contenders.
Pojoaque has the best record at 12-5 so far this season. The Elkettes have two wins over Bernalillo High School, which is currently the second-ranked team in the state in Class 2-4A. The Elkettes are led by veteran players seniors Michaela Martinez and Ashten Martinez. Michaela Martinez has taken over at point guard, while Ashten Martinez has been a fixture at post ever since her freshman year. The Elkettes excel at running a half-court offense. Hennessie Calabaza and Anissa Herrera are solid starters at guard and wing. Alicia Sanchez and Tonni Aguino at wing and post make for a solid six for Pojoaque. The Elkettes begin play in District 2-4A Tuesday hosting Espanola in a grudge match at Pojoaque.
Espanola is currently 10-8 on the season. The Lady Sundevils, as is normally the case at Espanola, lack height. They rely of their quickness, which they have plenty of. They are also good shooters and aren’t afraid to launch three-pointers. Anita DeAguero, Miranda Salazar, Destiny Valdez, Jasmine Baca and Kianna Duran make up a solid junior class for Espanola. Seniors Jaylynn Padilla and Erika Medina are key role players, while freshmen Rhianna Padilla and Kaitlyn Thomas are seeing playing time. Espanola usually goes 8-10 deep in every game. The Sundevils open their district season at Pojoaque.
Los Alamos, on the other hand, usually has height and this year is no exception. Becca Green uses her size and strength in the low post to score inside. The 6-foot Green is a state champion shot-putter and discus-thrower. Natalie Gallegos at 6-foot, 1-inch can score inside but also can shoot from the perimeter. Michaela Gonzales at 5-foot, 10-inches can also contribute inside. The challenge at Los Alamos is rebuilding their backcourt, which they lost to graduation. As was the case last season, the Hilltoppers are coming together late in the season. After a 3-6 start, Los Alamos has won six straight games and is currently 9-6 on the season. The Hilltoppers host Moriarty Tuesday in their District 2-4A opener.
Moriarty is currently 6-9 on the season. The Lady Pintos are looking to pull off an upset or two and possibly sneak into the state tournament as a low seed. They have played a weak schedule. Moriarty opens its District 2-4A season Tuesday at Los Alamos
Taos is better than they were last year, but still struggling to compete. The Tigers will try to keep the game low-scoring and slow the game down. The Tigers begin their District 2-4A season Thursday hosting Pojoaque.