Lady Sundevils Basketball

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Lady Sundevils Beat Nemesis Gallup, Take Down Lady Eagles
Valley Daily Post

Alexis Lovato gets fouled under the basket. Photo by George Morse\

Española Valley High School gained a measure of revenge against Gallup High School with a 74-66 victory over the Lady Bengals Jan. 10 at Española.
The Lady Sundevils have had their basketball season end at the state basketball tournament on the floor of the Pit in Albuquerque the last three seasons at the hands of the Lady Bengals. Last season, Gallup ground up Española 53-33 in the Class 5A state tournament semifinals. In 2015, the Lady Bengals ended Española’s season with another win in the Class 5A semifinals 78-52. In the quarterfinals of the then Class 4A state tournament, Gallup beat Española 73-62 to end the Lady Sundevils’ season.
“I really think we had a monkey on our backs about them (Gallup),” Española Coach Cindy Roybal said. “I think I wanted to beat them more than they (her team) did.”
Gallup is not quite the team that they have been the last three seasons, which produced a state championship and two state runner-up results. The Lady Bengals are just 7-7 this season.
“It doesn’t matter,” Coach Roybal said. “When teams play Española, they always want to beat
Española.” Gallup certainly played like it wanted to beat Española. Trailing 14-9 at the end of the first quarter, the Lady Bengals put together an 8-0 run and took a 25-22 lead. The Lady Sundevils managed just two field goals-one two-pointer and one three-pointer- in the second quarter. Gallup held a 27-26 lead at halftime.
Española’s Alexis Lovato had 11 first-half points, but nine had come from the free-throw line. The fireworks from Lovato were yet to come. After Española took a 28-27 lead on a sweet pass from Leah DeAguero to a wide-open Alycia Archibeque under the basket, the Lady Bengals launched an aerial assault on the Lady Sundevils with guard Khalisa Kinsel leading the way.
Kinsel scored Gallup’s next 11 points, including three, three-pointers from all over the court. The Lady Bengals took a 38-31 lead. After a basket by Lovato, who was the only thing keeping Española close to Gallup, a three-pointer by Amunda Michell gave the Lady Bengals a 41-33 lead.
Coach Roybal decided to throw caution to the wind and had her team press the Lady Bengals full court.“I was hesitant to have us press because they (Gallup) are so fast,” Coach Roybal said. “I took a look at the score and figured we had nothing to lose.”
The press paid immediate dividends. After a pair of free throws by Lovato, a turnover by Gallup in the backcourt led to a three-pointer by Kaylee Chavez. Another turnover led to a layup by DeAguero. With 3:15 left in the third quarter, a pair of free throws by Lovato finished off a 9-0 run by the Lady Sundevils that gave Española a 42-41 lead.
A three-pointer by Gallup’s Ashley Antone gave the lead back to the Lady Bengals, but that was the last time Gallup would be ahead in the game. Two more free throws by Lovato, followed by a steal and an easy layup by DeAguero, put the Sundevils ahead again. Gallup would tie the score twice more in the third quarter. Another turnover, a basket by Gaby Ortiz and two more baskets by Lovato gave Española a 54-52 lead heading into the fourth quarter.
Lovato had 17 points in the third quarter. The turnovers kept coming for the Lady Sundevils’ full-court pressure. Two more turnovers by the Lady Bengals led to two baskets by Lovato. DeAguero, Chavez, Ortiz and Archibeque harassed the Lady Bengals like a swarm of hornets in the backcourt.
“They did a phenomenal job on top,” Coach Roybal said. “They stole the ball left and right. Then ‘The Beast’ took over.” “The Beast” is what Coach Roybal calls Lovato. Lovato had two old-fashioned, three-point plays in the third quarter, doing a good job of filling the lane in transition. Lovato would finish the game with a career-high 41 points, 30 of which came in the second half.
“We just stepped it up on defense,” Lovato said. “The offense came after that.” Española had finally beaten the Lady Begals, taking a 74-66 victory. “Very nice after three years,” Lovato said.
In their next game Jan. 12 on the road against the Lady Eagles of Belen High School, the offense was limited for the Lady Sundevils. The defense was still there. Española led just 18-15 at halftime. Española held Belen to just eight points in the second half and went on to a 38-23 win. Lovato had 18 points in that game. The Lady Sundevils are 11-4 on the season and ranked third in the state in Class 5A. Española faces Albuquerque Academy Jan. 18 in Albuquerque.