Roswell’s Daniel Amador throws down a vicious dunk during the Coyotes’ win. (Shawn Naranjo Photos)
Lady Coyote Jaedyn De La Cerda puts up a shot from 3-point range.
The Roswell High boys and girls basketball teams each picked up wins to begin their 2015-16 seasons Saturday afternoon at the RHS Gymnasium and despite somewhat slow starts, the final scores reflected the high expectations of two of the state’s top 5A squads.
The Lady Coyotes (1-0) won the opening tip and quickly jumped out to 7-0 lead only to see the Onate Lady Knights (2-2) quickly close the gap to 7-5.
After that, it was all Roswell, as the Lady Coyotes went on a 26-point run, led by the rebounding of senior Gali Sanchez and the scoring of junior Jaedyn De La Cerda, who finished the game with 16 points.
Senior guard Alexis Angeles scored just 2 points, but kept Onate from finding any rhythm with 4 steals.
“Gali and Lex, they’re going to lead the way for us this year,” said Lady Coyotes head coach Joe Carpenter. “Probably not their best game, but it’s going to happen for them and you’ll see big things from them as the season moves forward.”
Late in the second quarter, the Lady Knights finally got back on the scoreboard with a pair of free throws to make the score 33-7.
After a Sanchez steal and cross-court pass to junior Sheyanne Sandoval, who layed in the easy 2-pointer, the half ended with Roswell leading 35-7.
Carpenter said the Lady Coyotes will hang their hats on defense, while the offense will improve as they get more experience and study film.
“Defense, that’s our bread and butter,” he said. “We’ve gone to 12 or 13 final fours in the last 16 years and that’s because of our defense. We expect to play high level defense, night in and night out and as long as we can do that, we’re going to be in the ball game and have chances to win.”
“We scored a lot of points in transition, so we kind of out-athleted them, is what I would say,” said Carpenter. “Our half-court offense wasn’t as good as I would’ve liked to have seen, but we’re going to try to improve on that. We’ll have some good game film to look at.”
In the second half, the defensive pressure continued, as Roswell left little room for Onate to work the ball into the paint, forced them to take long, contested shots.
The Lady Coyotes would add another 11 points before allowing the Lady Knights to score again, with Sanchez and Angeles crashing the boards and senior Kaitlyn Holl, sophomore Valeria Bonilla and De La Cerda making shots.
Sanches had 9 rebounds and Angeles chipped in with 6.
Leading 48-9 to open the fourth quarter and with the game well in hand, the Roswell starters took a seat and Onate managed a few more points before the buzzer, as the Lady Coyotes took down the 6A squad from Las Cruces by a final score of 54-13.
Carpenter said it’s good to open the season with a win, but the schedule doesn’t get any easier going forward.
“It’s a fresh start and it will be fun,” said Carpenter. “the kids are going to compete every time and give us a chance, but our schedule gets real tough real quick. We play a lot of 6As. We play the best and that’s the way we like it.”
After a short intermission, the Roswell Coyotes (1-0) took the floor to face another Las Cruces 6A school, the Mayfield Trojans (1-2).
Mayfield took the tip-off and got out to a 5-0 lead with offensive rebounding and a couple of early fouls by the Coyotes. Roswell would tie the game with a Daniel Amador 3-pointer from the left corner and a tough shot under the basket by junior Chris Mesquita.
After trading baskets to an 11-point tie, Mayfield would once again make a run as the Coyotes struggled to find open shooters and get back on defense.
After senior Jacob Miley found Amador for another 3-point play, his third of the quarter, the Coyotes started to settle down and find some rhythm.
Amador would finish the game with 28 points, including 7 of 10 from the charity stripe.
In the second quarter, senior Dominic Anaya and junior Chris Carpenter and Grant Smothermon began to penetrate the Mayfield defense, draw fouls and make their free throws, slowing down the Trojan attack.
An offensive flurry late in the second quarter helped Roswell take a 38-35 lead into halftime and the Coyotes would not allow another Mayfield basket until late in the third period.
“It was their third game, it was our first and I think we had some jitters starting out,” said head coach Britt Cooper. “But in the second quarter we started to get into it. I told them we need a good start to the second half. I always tell them, the first two minutes of the third quarter are the most important. You have to set the tempo.”
Amador opened the half with another 3-ball on the assist from Smothermon, who added 2 points of his own on a hard drive to the paint.
The Coyotes began to move the ball more fluidly and showed the Trojans some different looks on defense.
“They didn’t score for the longest time and we were able to wear them down,” said Cooper. “We played 10 kids pretty solidly and I think we just wore Mayfield out.”
The Coyotes missed some open shots in the third quarter, but rebounded well and managed to draw fouls, hitting 6 of 8 free throws in the period.
With just under three minutes remaining in the quarter, Amador stole an inbounds pass near the left wing and dunked over two Mayfield defenders, bringing the crowd to its feet and putting the Coyotes up 56-35.
“(Amador’s) an all-state player, a kid who can play a little,” said Cooper. “In the first half, he wasn’t really himself all the way through, but started coming on, like the rest of the team did. He’s solid.”
Mayfield made a few baskets to close out the quarter, but could not stop the Roswell scoring onslaught in the final period, as Smothermon got hot from behind the arch, and Amador and Miley each made four free throws.
The Coyotes scored 28 points in the fourth quarter and ran away from the Trojans, pleasing the rowdy home crowd with some fancy moves, including a behind-the-back pass from Anaya to Smothermon, who hit an open three-pointer with 6 minutes left in the game.
When the final buzzer sounded, the Coyotes had their largest lead of the afternoon, putting away the 6A Trojan 87-60.
Smothermon finished the game with 14 points and juniors Laker Slayton and Chris Mesquita added 12 and 10, respectively.
After the game, Cooper said he was happy with his team’s performance in their first game of the season, but knows his squad can play a cleaner game.
“It’s just like always, we’ve got to dictate tempo and really get that press working,” he said. “Tonight we scored 87 points, but if we finish layups and don’t turn the ball over so much, it’s a game where we could probably score 100, if we executed. It’s the first game of the year, I’m not disappointed at all, it’s just a matter of working on some things.”
Cooper said he thinks he has a team that can get back to the playoffs and make some noise.
“With the experience we have back mixed with the inexperience of the new kids, I think we’ll be someone to reckon with in 5A,” he said. “I think when it’s all said and done, we’ll be knocking on the door again.”
Both Roswell High teams have another home game before they leave the friendly confines of the RHS gym for the first time in the young season. The Lady Coyotes take on the Hobbs Lady Eagles at 7 p.m. on Tuesday and the Coyotes will host the Portales Rams at 7 p.m. on Thursday.