Lady Sundevils Defeat Gallup
By George Morse Sports and Outdoors
To reach the Class 5A semifinals against Los Lunas, the Sundevils defeated an old nemesis. In 2015 and 2016, Gallup High School had defeated Espanola in the Class 5A semifinals. In 2017, the Sundevils finally shook off that curse and defeated the Lady Bengals 48-41 in the Class 5A state quarterfinals March 7 at the Pit.
“Finally, finally off my back,” Coach Roybal said. “Finally off their back.”
Espanola’s Alexis Lovato scored 21 points against Gallup. Photo by George Morse for the Valley Daily Post
The 11th-seeded Lady Bengals didn’t give up without a fight. Although Espanola led 11-4 at the end of the first quarter, Gallup came charging back with an 8-0 run to start the second quarter to take a 12-11 lead. The Sundevils were struggling on offense and it wasn’t until just less than five minutes remained in the first half that Espanola scored again on a basket by Lovato off an assist from DeAguero. Lovato scored all of Espanola’s points in the second quarter and the score was tied 18-18 at halftime. Espanola missed 10 three-pointers in the first half and made just one.
In the third quarter, Lovato continued to provide much of Espanola’s offense, while Kaylee Chavez came up with a pair of defensive plays that led to baskets by the Sundevils. Chavez fed DeAguero for one score after making a steal, then came up with another steal and took it in herself.
However, the Sundevils couldn’t stop Gallup’s Sara Ann Shirley from scoring in the paint. Shirley consistently took an entry pass and took the ball to the basket, scoring eight points. Espanola clung to a 31-30 lead going into the fourth quarter.
That lead didn’t last long, as Shirley scored to start the fourth quarter. The two teams traded punches with Espanola taking the lead and Gallup tying it up until the Bengals’ Kamryn Yazzie drained a three-pointer to give Gallup a 41-39 lead with 2:28 left in the game.
That’s when Annalynn Martinez stepped up and claimed a moment in the sun. The daughter of former Espanola Valley boys basketball coach Richard Martinez. Annalynn Martinez had seen her father win two state championships at the Pit.
Annalynn Martinez launched a deep three=pointer from the top of the keythat fell through the basket togive her team a 42-41 lead at 2:09 of the fourth quarter. Martinez has worked her way into being the Sundevils’ sixth player and first off the bench in the latter part of the season. She had several key baskets in the Sundevils opning-round 35-30 win over Aztec High School. Martinez’s three-pointer put the Sundevils ahead to stay.
“I was just praying to God ‘Help me, help me,’” Martinez said.
Gallup never scored again as the Sundevils came up with two steals in the final two minutes and finished the game going 6-of-8 from the free-throw line. Lovato was the only double-digit scorer for the Sundevils, finishing with 21 points.
Espanola advanced to the semifinals
“It’s like a dream come true,” Martinez said. “I mean, we’re not done yet. We have a lot to accomplish. It’s an intense feeling, honestly.”
Coach Roybal wanted to take a moment and savor the victory before looking ahead.
“Let me enjoy this one,” she said