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Again, Lady Coyotes survive on last-second shot

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Roswell High School junior Cheyenne Martinez dribbles the ball on a fast break that would end in the game winning shot against Lovington, Friday at the Coyote Den. (David Rocha Photo)

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It wasn’t the prettiest win of all, and the New Mexico Activities Association doesn’t give style points when they rank teams. Good thing, because what the Lady Coyotes did on Friday was win on a last-second shot by junior Cheyenne Martinez. Martinez scored 10 points of the night with no time left on the clock as Roswell defeated Lovington, 51-49, Friday night at the Coyote Den.

Roswell High School junior Cheyenne Martinez takes the
game winning shot against Lovington, Friday at the Coyote
Den. (Arnold Roe Photo)

“I have been staying a lot after practice,” Martinez said. “I felt comfortable coming across the lane going to my left, and I feel good putting in the work.”

This is Martinez’s second fantastic finish in succeeding weeks. Last Friday, she hit a soft lefthanded jumper in the lane against Goddard with no time left on the clock to give them a 31-30 victory.

Tonight, the Lady Coyotes refused to lose after giving up the lead, 41-39 to the Lady Wildcats with 5:21 left in the game. Martinez came back and hit a three-pointer from the left elbow to give Roswell a 42-41 lead with 4:54 in the game.

Lovington held Roswell scoreless for the next three minutes of the game without a field goal as they hit a two-pointer, a three-pointer and a free throw to take a 46-42 lead with 4:08 to play in the game.

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Both teams were in the double bonus and committed fouls and missed their free throws as Lady Coyotes Kaitlyn Holl scored on a twisting driving layup on the right side of the basket to bring Roswell to within 46-44 with 55.5 seconds left in the game.

At this point, Roswell coach Fernando Sanchez was playing offense for defense, with no timeouts left. Sanchez had his team bring their press up and force Lovington to take a timeout because they couldn’t get the ball in or go for a quick steal. If they didn’t get a steal, they fouled right away, and, on this possession, they fouled Alexis Borunda where she made free throws as Lovington took a 48-44 lead with 25.1 seconds left in the game. Once again, Roswell employed the same strategy with Borunda as she hit another free throw to give them a 49-44 lead with 20.2 seconds left in the game.

With time running out from the left three-point line, Roswell’s junior Grace Velazco, stepped into her shot and was fouled in the act of shooting, sending her to the line for three free throws. On Velazco’s first attempt, it fluttered and looked like it might not make it, as it hit the back of the rim and fell through, the other two free throws hit nothing but the bottom of the net as Roswell was in striking distance with Lovington leading, 49-47 with 20.2 seconds left.

The Lady Wildcats had to take their final timeout as they had trouble getting the ball inbounds, thanks to tight man-to-man defense. Lovington broke the press and had a sure layup, but their player rushed the shot and missed it; the Coyotes sprinted down court and Holl put up a shot. She missed it but was fouled in the act of shooting. Holl made one of her free throws, as the Lady Coyotes moved at one point of tying the game, 49-48 with 15.6 seconds to play in the game.

Lovington missed their free throws and after an outlet pass from a Coyote teammate, Alexandra Gonzalez threw the ball ahead to Martinez as she caught the ball in stride with a defender on her and made her patent move to the left side of the lane, and then she stopped and let the defender go by her with that move, she put the shot up as it hit the net just as the buzzer sounded, giving Roswell a 51-49 win as the crowd celebrated in stunning fashion.

In this game, point guard Anica Dillard played with a fearlessness not seen before this season. She hit three 3-pointers in the game and was aggressive on the offensive end of the floor as she was carrying the fast break to Lovington, turning the corner and looking for ways to get her teammates involved.

“Coach has been having us stay after practice and shooting,” Dillard said. “I’m just trying to step up for us, and our team is working together. We have to have a good practice this week. I told our team not to get down when we were behind five points. “

“I think it has been a growing process,” coach Sanchez said. “The hard part is when you’re following such success, people expect you to be the same group, and we’re not. I love these girls. They drive me crazy. They have made me work harder than I have ever worked before. This group has driven me to read because I have to be better. I think playing all of those close games early in the year, has been a big difference to now.”

Jalen Baca, Kaileigh Holloway, and some of the other players did yeomen work by denying several inbound passes for the Wildcats to help keep the Lady Coyotes in the game, as they forced Lovington’s coach to take his last timeout, which helped set up the game-winning play. By substituting offense for defense, they held Lovington without any points in their last four possessions.

Holl scored 20 points.

“We’ve had our ups and downs this year,” Holl said. “But I wouldn’t trade this team for any other team because they are like my family.”

Roswell changed their battle cry before they broke the huddle to “All In.”

Artesia won the district; Goddard was second, Lovington finished third and Roswell is fourth. Technically, with the win, it means that Artesia is the district champions by point differential as they lost to Goddard Friday night, 57-35, to claim the district title. All teams in District 5A have finished with 3-3 record.

As of now, Roswell will play at Lovington on Thursday at 7 p.m.

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