Lady Sundevils Pick Up Big District Victories

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Lady Sundevils Pick Up Big District Victories, Take Over First Place

Alexis Lovato looks for an opening against Albuquerque Academy. Photo by George Morse\
Valley Daily Post
Española Valley High School moved into first place in District 2-5A with a pair of victories over District 2-5A opponents.
The Lady Sundevils started last week winning on a hostile court where Española hadn’t won a game in district competition, defeating Del Norte High School 60-55 Feb. 1 in Albuquerque.
The Lady Sundevils ended two years of frustration with the win over the Lady Knights. Del Norte had joined District 2-5A during the 2014-2015 season and had defeated Española in Albuquerque the last two seasons. Española Coach Cindy Roybal had declared Jan. 27 that this year the Lady Sundevils would change that and her team delivered on the court.
The Sundevils built a 22-16 lead in the first quarter and led 29-27 at halftime. In the pivotal third quarter, Española outscored Del Norte 15-5 and had a 12-point lead, 44-32, heading into the fourth quarter. The Lady Knights tried to make a run at the Lady Sundevils in the fourth quarter. Española was able to hold on for the victory.
Alexis Lovato led the Lady Sundevils with 30 points. Leah DeAguero added 12 points and Kaylee Chavez had 10 points for Española.
Española avenged an earlier loss with a 44-28 win over Albuquerque Academy Feb. 3 in Española. The Lady Chargers had beaten the Lady Sundevils 38-34 Jan. 18 in the District 2-5A opener for both teams. The Chargers looked ready to prove their earlier victory was no fluke, coming out with a smothering defense that held the Lady Sundevils to just 12 points in the first half. After Española had taken a 9-6 lead in the first quarter, the Chargers held the Lady Sundevils to three points in the second quarter. Academy grabbed a 14-12 lead by halftime.
‘We were missing shots, missing layups,” Coach Roybal said. “They were sagging inside and beating us on the boards. We were one (shot) and done.”
Some three-pointers started to fall for Española in the third quarter, as Alycia Archibeque and DeAguero hit back-to-back treys to give the Lady Sundevils an 18-16 lead. An old-fashioned, three-point play by Academy’s Sophie long gave the lead back to the Lady Chargers. Lovato answered with a three-point play of her own. Academy tied the score 21-21.
Chavez hit another three-pointer for Española to give the Lady Sundevils a 24-21 lead. The Lady Chargers came back with a basket by Savina Romero and a three-pointer by Andrea Park to take a 26-24 lead. The Lady Chargers had opportunities to pad their lead, but missed seven straight free throws. Despite that, Academy still held a two-point lead heading into the fourth quarter.
In a move that had a few Española fans and her assistant coaches scratching their heads, Coach Roybal moved Lovato out to the perimeter from her usual post position in the paint in the fourth quarter. Lovato proceeded to take over the game. Drawing fouls and getting to the basket now that she was handling the ball, Lovato scored 10 unanswered points. She had an old-fashioned, three-point play, sank 6-of-7 free throws and finished off her streak with a layup after a sweet assist from DeAguero to give Española a 34-26 lead.
“We put ‘The Beast’ outside and she went crazy,” Coach Roybal said. “They were doubling and triple-teaming her and sagging inside. We  pulled ‘The Beast’ out. She was able to drive and they couldn’t handle her. I told the team what to do and by golly, they did it.”
“The Beast” is Coach Roybal’s nickname for Lovato. Lovato wasn’t finished and added six more points to finish the game with 25 points, including 16 in the fourth quarter. Española went on to outscore the Lady Chargers 20-2 in the fourth quarter to take a 44-28 victory.
“Me and Leah (DeAguero) decided we were not going to lose and give it our all,” Lovato said.
DeAguero finished with eight points and numerous assists to Lovato.
“It helped that we were moving more on offense,” DeAguero said. “Our offense was kind of stagnant. When we pulled them out we got more open opportunities to drive and then dish to her (Lovato).”
Coupled with a surprising 44-41 overtime loss to Los Alamos Jan. 30 in Los Alamos, the Lady Chargers fell to 3-2 in District 2-5A. Española improved to 4-1 and moved into first place in District 2-5A with the victory.
‘We did it on the road (against Del Norte) and then nicely at home,” Coach Roybal said.
Española faced Rio Rancho High School Tuesday in a non district game at Española and travels to Santa Fe Friday to face Capital High School in its next District 2-5A game.