Lady Sundevils Defeat Del Norte, Now 3-1 in District

DSC_3819 (3)
Española’s Meranda Salazar drives against Del Norte. Photo by George Morse for the Valley Daily Post

Lady Sundevils Defeat Del Norte, Now 3-1 in District

By George Morse Sports and Outdoors

The Española Valley High School girls basketball team came alive in the third quarter of their District 2-5A matchup against Del Norte High School. The Lady Sundevils sank four three-pointers to take a 31-20 lead after trailing 14-13 at halftime. Española held off a late rally by the Lady Knights to take a 42-37 victory Jan. 30 at Española.

“We came out with a bang in the third quarter,” junior Kaylee Chavez said. “We don’t usually do that.”

Española’s Kaylee Chavez puts up a shot against Del Norte. Photo by George Morse for the Valley Daily Post

After a slow first half where the Sundevils could only put seven points on the board in the first quarter and six in the second quarter, the shots from the perimeter started to fall for the Sundevils. Chavez nailed a three-pointer that tied the score 16-16. Del Norte took an 18-16 lead.

Chavez canned a pair of free throws to ignite the Sundevils and tie the score. She then drained a three-pointer from the wing. Kaylinn Martinez nailed another three-pointer. Anita DeAguero scored on a fast break layup. While this was going on, Del Norte missed shots that they should have made and turned the ball over. The 10-0 run by Española gave the Sundevils a 26-18 lead.

Española’s Kaylinn Martinez shoots for two against Del Norte. Photo by George Morse for the Valley Daily Post

After a pair of free throws by the Knights, Martinez scored inside and Chavez sank her third three-pointer of the third quarter to give Española a 31-20 lead heading into the fourth quarter.

“We want them to be patient on offense and recognize their opportunities,” Española Coach Bobby Romero said. “They’re really starting to realize where their opportunities are.”

Española’s Kaylee Chavez penetrates into the lane against Del Norte. Photo by George Morse for the Valley Daily Post

Another three-pointer by Chavez gave the Sundevils a 34-20 lead in the fourth quarter. Del Norte cut the lead to 34-25. Another Chavez three-pointer followed by another trey from the corner by DeAguero pushed Española’s lead to 40-25 with 3:58 left in the game. Del Norte started to throw up shots, while the Sundevils milked the clock on their possessions. Some of the Knights’ shots started to fall and they cut the lead to 40-32 as time started to wind down. A runner by Española’s Jasmine Baca made the score 42-32. A late flurry by the Del Norte cut the lead in half, but time ran out on the Knights and Española held on for the win.

It was the Sundevils’ second victory after turmoil off the court led to Coach Johnny Abeyta’s being placed on administrative leave and Romero, an assistant varsity coach, being elevated to head coach while allegations of verbal abuse by Abeyta were investigated.

“The girls are doing well and coming together,” Coach Romero said. “They’re working hard. We tell them to go out there and play and don’t worry about the other stuff.”

Chavez and Martinez are the only veterans returning from last season, with Chavez being the only returning starter. The rest of Española’s roster is made up of young, inexperienced players. Chavez had 25 points against Del Norte, including seven three-pointers.

“We’re practicing hard and trying to push through it,” she said. “We push ourselves so we can bounce back and take the district.”

Española lost its second District 2-5A game 49-41 against Capital High Jan. 24 in Santa Fe. That was just days after Abeyta had been placed on administrative leave and the team had not practiced in four days. Romero was not named as interim head coach until the day before the game.

“We’ve had five practices,” Coach Romero said. “It takes time to show them where their opportunities (to score) are. We have seven freshman on the varsity roster.”

With the win over Del Norte, Española evened its season record at 10-10 and 3-1 in District 2-5A. Capital sits in first place with a 4-0 record in District 2-5A with Española second. The two teams meet again Feb. 10 in Española with first place likely on the line.

“We’re trying to make it a lot more positive for them,” Coach Romero said.