Espanola's Kaylee Chavez brings the ball downcourt against Capital High School in the Lady Sundevils 67-46 victory over the Lady Jaguars Jan. 18 in Espanola (photo by Roman Martinez).
By George Morse
Lady Sundevils Blitz Capital
The Espanola Valley High School girls basketball team has found their identity and you’d better buckle your seat belts when you play the Lady Sundevils.
“We found our style,” senior Kaylee Chavez said. “We like to play really fast.”
If you aren’t ready for the pace the Sundevils like to play at, you better look out or you’ll get run over. The Capital High School Lady Jaguars found that out the hard way when they faced Espanola Jan. 18 at Edward Medina Gym. Espanola blitzed the Jaguars with a smothering full court press that created turnover after turnover that the Sundevils converted into layups and open looks at the basket. The first turnover led to an old-fashioned, three-point play by Chavez. Destiny Valdez turned the next turnover into a corner three-pointer. A steal by Chavez followed by a layup was next and the Sundevils had scored eight points before the Jaguars got on the board.
Espanola would add 16 more points before Capital would score again and take a commanding 24-2 lead. The sundevils harassed Capital into 10 turnovers in the first quarter and led 27-5 at the end of the first quarter.
Capital finally figured out how to score against Espanola’s defense in the second quarter. The Sundevils were still effective on offense and were able to match the Jaguars practically shot for shot. A basket by Kaylinn Martinez closed out the second quarter and the Sundevils still led by over 20 points 44-21 at halftime.
“After the Rio Rancho tournament, we started to click,” Espanola Coach Joe Estrada said. “We found our rhythm. I let the kids play a little bit more. That’s the best we shot all year.”
In the third quarter, the scoring slowed down a bit, but Espanola still was able to hit big shots when they needed to. After Capital had cut Espanola’s lead to 17 points, Jasmine Baca nailed a three-pointer to push the lead back to 20 points 53-33 heading into the fourth quarter.
Capital’s Ethena Silva hit a three-pointer to once again cut Espanola’s lead to 17 points in the fourth quarter. That was as close as the Jaguars would get as Espanola still was able to hit its shots. Valdez and Chavez hit three-pointers and the Sundevils cruised to a 67-46 victory.
Espanola’s style matches its players. The Sundevils have no height.
“We’re a small team,” Chavez said. “We pressure the guards more so we don’t get killed on the bottom.”
Though small, the Sundevils are quick and their offense is constantly in motion.
“We pass and cut,” Chavez said. “We drive and look for the open shot.”
The strategy doesn’t always work. Espanola traveled to Gallup High School Jan. 19 to take on the Lady Bengals. Gallup also likes to play fast and they were able keep up with and pull away from the Sundevils to take a 58-39 victory, outscoring Espanola 20-7 in the fourth quarter. Gallup is ranked third in Class 4A.
Espanola is 9-7 overall and ranked 10th in Class 4A. The Sundevils have a big showdown Tuesday (1/22) when they host Pojoaque Valley High School in their District 2-4A opener.
The Elkettes were at one time 13-0 and ranked first in Class 4A. Now, Pojoaque is 14-3 and ranked fourth in Class 4A. The Elkettes have lost three of their last four games, including a blowout loss to Gallup 75-48 Jan. 12 at the Portales Shootout and a 40-38 loss to Santa Fe Indian School Jan. 15 in Santa Fe.
In district play, it is imperative to defend your home court. The Sundevils will need to defend their home against a Pojoaque team likely very hungry to get back to their winning ways.
Espanola's Anita DeAguero snags an offensive rebound against Capital.
Espanola's Jaylyn Padilla eyes the basket against Capital and draws a foul.