Local Girls Basketball Looks To Future At Jamboree

by Staff Reporter / Jun 08, 2017 / comments
Kaylee Chavez, who will be a junior, is the only returning starter for Espanola Valley High School. Photo by George Morse for the Valley Daily Post

Local Girls Basketball Looks To Future At Jamboree

By George Morse Sports and Outdoors

Basketball season does not end with the state tournament nor begin with the opening game of the season. More than one coach has said that teams are built in the so-called “off season.” Several local coaches started doing that building at a Basketball Jamboree held in conjunction with an Official’s Camp June 2-3 at Pojoaque Valley High School.

For Espanola Valley High School girls basketball coach Johnny Abeyta it was an opportunity to build the relationship between himself and his team. Abeyta had built a reputation as a coach at Santa Fe Indian School where he won a state championship in 2005, the first year that the Lady Braves competed in then-Class 3A after moving up from then-Class 2A. Seeded eighth and last under that season’s state tournament format, Indian School defeated top-seeded Grants High School in the opening round, knocked off Thoreau High School in the semifinals and defeated  defending champion Portales High School in the state championship game.

Espanola Valley Girls Basketball Coach begins his first season with the Lady Sundevils. Abeyta will have to replace five seniors who graduated and returns just one starter. Photo by George Morse for the Valley Daily Post

Abeyta left Indian School in 2007. After serving as girls head coach at McCurdy School for one season, he left coaching to concentrate on serving his tribe at Ohkay Owingeh Pueblo as Director of the Boys and Girls Club and Social Services Director. He made the decision to return to coaching and applied for the job at Espanola after Coach Cindy Roybal made the decision not to return and is now at Santa Fe High School.

“I wanted to come back and work with young ladies,” Coach Abeyta said. “Take them to a state championship like I did the first one.”

Abeyta will have a rebuilding job this coming season. Five seniors graduated in May-Alycia Archibeque, Leah DeAguero, Brenda Garduno, Alexis Lovato, Annalynn Martinez. The only returning player who saw significant playing time is sophomore Kaylee Chavez.

“The culture that was here before was there were six players,” Coach Abeyta said. “They did a hell of a lot and I give them a lot of credit.”

The Lady Sundevils will have a new look under Abeyta.

“Hard work and commitment to be part of a team where they all contribute,” Coach Abeyta said. “I have a young group of girls who are beginning to understand what I’m about. Building relationships on offense and defense to get them to play the way you want. They all have to be a part of it.”

At the Jamboree, the Lady Sundevils showed a fine shooting touch from the outside. They moved the ball around like Abeyta wants them to do. They had the potential, but you could tell they were a work in progress.

“Right now, we’re working on the fundamental skills to be able to compete so when the season comes they’ll be ready to play and contribute,” Coach Abeyta said. “They’ll know they can count on each other and be part of something special.”

Coach Abeyta believes that you should never stop growing and learning.

“You can’t be satisfied with where you’re at because you’ll never get to where you want to go,” he said.

The expectations for the Lady Sundevils will be high, as Espanola has advanced to the semifinals of the Class5A state basketball tournament the last three years.

“I look forward to the challenge,” Coach Abeyta said. “I’m from the Valley and it feels good to help these girls accomplish something. Coaching ain’t a job. It’s fun.”

In contrast to the rebuilding that Coach Abeyta faces, McCurdy Charter School Coach Ron Sanchez will have most of his team returning. That includes dynamic guard Karla Santos. The Lady Bobcats will look to repeat as champions of the District 2-3A tournament, which they won last season. The goal is to win the regular season District 2-3A title, which eluded McCurdy last season. That hurt the Lady Bobcats when the seedings were determined for the Class 3A state tournament. McCurdy could not be seeded higher than Dulce, who won the regular season title but lost to McCurdy in the District2-3A tournament.

McCurdy Charter School Girls Basketball Coach Ron Sanchez returns for his third season with most of his team coming back for their senior year. Photo by George Morse for the Valley Daily Post

“I’ve got six seniors coming back,” Coach Sanchez said. “This is my third season. They understand the sets we run and the defenses we run. They’re doing well.”

McCurdy had a good showing at the Jamboree, heating bigger schools like Los Alamos and Taos. The lack of numbers (just six players) hurt  McCurdy in their final scrimmage as fatigue set in. Questa High School beat them. Shots that were falling earlier in the day were not going in. A problem last season came back to haunt the Bobcats against Questa. McCurdy turned the ball over, which they hadn’t done in previously.

“Our nemesis last year was turnovers,” Coach Sanchez said. “We averaged 30 turnovers a game. It’s hard to get girls to commit for the summer.”

Pojoaque Valley High School will also return most of its team. The Elkettes return three starters and most of their reserves, including point guard Taylor Roybal, along with posts Ashten Martinez and Shania Thronas. Head Coach Seledon Martinez also returns for his third season at Pojoaque.

Pojoaque Valley High School Girls Basketball Coach Seledon Martinez returns for his third season at Pojoaque. Photo by George Morse for the Valley Daily Post

The experience that the Elkettes have playing together in their home gym showed at the Jamboree. The Elkettes were undefeated. Most of the Elkettes are involved with fall sports like volleyball, cross country and soccer, so this was a good opportunity to get inn some basketball and work on one of their weaknesses.

“One of these days, we’re going to stop fouling,” Coach Martinez said. “This is an opportunity to get better and get playing. We should be better this year.”

Pojoaque’s Taylor Roybal drives against Penasco at a Basketball Jamboree June 3 at Pojoaque Valley High School. Photo by George Morse for the Valley Daily Post

This is the 15th Basketball Jamboree and Official’s Camp that Pojoaque has hosted. Danny Lujan, who assigns officials for the Northeast sector of the state that includes 38 schools, is required to have at least one training session per year. This year, 36 officials attended the camp. Guest instructors include National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division One official Wilson Holland and retired National Basketball Association official Tommy Nunez.

Official Danny Lujan (left) and Pojoaque Valley High School Athletic Director Matt Martinez, who is retiring, talk at the Basketball Jamboree and Officials Camp hosted June 2-3 at Pojoaque Valley High School.Photo by George Morse for the Valley Daily Post