Lady Sundevils Take First At St. Michael’s Tournament

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Española's Katie Romero rebounds during the game against Las Vegas. Photo by George Morse with Valley Daily Post

Lady Sundevils Take First At St. Michael’s Tournament

By George Morse Sports and Outdoors

The Española Valley High School Lady Sundevils won their second tournament championship so far this season, knocking off host St. Michael’s High School 51-33 in the championship game of the Lady Horsemen Tournament  Dec. 30 in Santa Fe. Española had taken first place in the Jaguar Invitational  Tournament Dec. 5 in Santa Fe.

Against the Lady Horsemen, Española came out with guns blazing and shot out to a 13-0 lead after Kaylee Chavez’s three-pointer. The Sundevils nearly held St. Michael’s scoreless in the first quarter. The Lady Horsemen scored with just two seconds left to make it 13-2.


Española’s Alyeia Archibeque blocks Pojoaque’s Rachel Garcia under the board. Photo by George Morse with Valley Daily Post

The Sundevils continued to pour it on in the second quarter and led 30-9 at halftime. Española cruised to victory and the Sundevils improved to 10-2 on the season. St. Michael’s fell to 7-5.

Kaitlyn Romero scored 15 points for Española. Freshman Chavez added 14 points.

Romero was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player, scoring a total of 61 points in three tournament games. Chavez and Leah DeAguero were named to the all-tournament team.

While the Sundevils led from start to finish in the championship game, Española had to come from behind to earn a victory Dec. 28 in the opening round against Robertson High School.


Pojoaque’s Rachel Garcia moving the ball with Española’s Savannah Montoya guarding her. Photo by George Morse with Valley Daily Post

Trailing 48-40 at the end of the third quarter, Española outscored the Lady Cardinals 21-1 in the fourth quarter to win 61-49 and advance to the semifinals.

“We weren’t being aggressive,” senior guard Kaitlyn Romero said. “We weren’t boxing out. They (Robertson) were getting rebounds and layups.”

Romero keyed the Sundevils’ surge in the fourth quarter, scoring 15 of her game-high 24 points. She scored Española’s first eight points in the fourth quarter, tying the game with a putback with 6:03 left to play. Leah DeAguero’s layup gave Española the lead for good after a Robertson turnover.

“She (Romero) woke up and decided she wasn’t going to be denied,” Española Coach Cindy Roybal said.


Española’s Leah DeAguero takes a three pointer. Photo by George Morse with Valley Daily Post

Defense keyed the Sundevils’ comeback. Robertson turned the ball over on 10 of its first 11 possessions in the fourth quarter and didn’t score until just 41 seconds remained in the game. The Cardinals withered under the relentless pressure of Española’s man-to-man, full-court press.

“We weren’t getting back in our matchup zone or man-to-man,” Coach Roybal said. “I told them we gotta be aggressive and go full court.”

The game was tied at halftime 25-25 and the Cardinals had started the third quarter with a bang behind 6-foot post Angelica Montoya. She scored eight of her 16 points to start the second half. Her basket inside gave Robertson its biggest lead.

“She was killing us,” Coach Roybal said.

Montoya never scored again after that basket, thanks to good defense by Española’s Brenda Garduno, who replaced an injured Joselinn Rascon in the post. In addition to Romero’s 24 points, DeAguero scored 17 points for Española.
Española’s Brenda Garduno blocking a shot. Photo by George Morse with Valley Daily Post

Española advanced to the semifinals Dec. 29, where they would meet local rival Pojoaque Valley High School. The Elkettes beat Jemez Valley High School 64-59 Dec. 28 in the opening round.

The Sundevils led from start to finish against Pojoaque, but couldn’t seem to shake loose of the pesky and persistent Elkettes. Pojoaque trailed by as much as 16 points in the second and third quarters, but cut the lead to four points in the fourth quarter.

Española withstood the challenge and re-established a double-digit lead, holding off the Elkettes for a 62-50 victory.

We cut it close, then we let it get away,” Pojoaque Coach Seledon Martinez said.

Española took a 7-0 lead to start the game and was still ahead by seven points when Pojoaque’s Aaliyah Casados drained a three-pointer to make the score 11-7 in Española’s favor at the end of the first quarter. For Casados, it was a preview of what was to come.

The Sundevils led 30-18 at halftime. In the third quarter, it was the DeAguero and Romero show. DeAguero scored eight points and Romero five to account for all of Española’s scoring. Casados had drained a three-pointer to make the score 41-31 before Romero sank two free throws to give Española a 43-31 lead heading into the fourth quarter. Casados was just getting started.


Pojoaque’s KayLee Salazar with rebounded ball while Española’s KayLynn Martinez guards. Photo by George Morse with Valley Daily Post

She banged in another three-pointer to start the fourth quarter, then hammered home another to make the score 43-37. When Pojoaque freshman point guard Taylor Roybal nailed a pair of free throws, Española’s double digit lead was down to four points 43-39.

However, Rascon blocked a three-point attempt by Casados, then sank a free throw. Romero completed an old-fashioned, three-point play. Two Pojoaque turnovers and a basket by Romero put the Sundevils back up by double digits. The Sundevils survived the Pojoaque surge and went on to take a 62-50 victory.

Casados fired in one last defiant shot despite the defeat, draining a three-pointer (her fifth) at the buzzer to account for the final score.

Romero and DeAguero each scored 22 points for the Sundevils. Casados scored 22 points for Pojoaque.

“We’re not giving up,”Casados said. “We’re playing hard, playing good and trying to compete.”

Casados’ words would be prophetic, as the Elkettes would face the Pecos High School Panthers Dec. 30 in the third-place game (see related story).