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Family is everything for Goddard Lady Rocket hoops

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Lady Rockets head coach Jared Neighbors discusses the game plan during a recent summer game at Ground Zero. (Mike Smith Photo)

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Jared Neighbors is getting ready for his fifth season as the head coach of the Goddard Lady Rocket basketball team and during his stay in Roswell, he feels that he has created a family like culture.

The Lady Rockets have been making plenty of “family” trips this month, with stops in the Lubbock area during the first part of June. Last weekend, Goddard was at home. This week, they head to Amarillo and then the month will end at a team camp at Western Colorado University.

Neighbors liked the competition from Frenship High School and Lubbock Estacado High School during the first two weeks of this month.

“They’re scrappy,” Neighbors said of the Texas competition. “They play real hard and just in your face and we’re kind of the unknown and just playing those caliber of teams we really feel that has prepared us to play well over here.”

Last weekend, the Lady Rockets participated in a girls basketball camp hosted by Roswell High School. Neighbors said the Lady Coyotes allowed Goddard to play at Ground Zero and last Friday, they played Hobbs and Carlsbad. Neighbors feels that playing the out-of-state schools was a good tuneup against the Lady Eagles and the Cavegirls.

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“So I think that prepared us when we played Hobbs Friday morning, that we weren’t as scared as we’ve been in the past, because we played some top quality teams in Texas,” Neighbors said.

Neighbors admits that the Lady Rockets had to shift gears when playing the New Mexico schools.

“New Mexico is very competitive,” Neighbors said. “But, a lot more teams in New Mexico play zone like we do. We’ve been facing man-to-man (in Texas). So we had to shift and go over a lot of offenses to prepare for this.”

The Lady Rockets were a senior laden team last year. Goddard finished the season with a 17-13 record and lost to Gallup Miyamura in the opening round of the state tournament.

Gone from that team are Camarynn Villalpondo, Eden Wiggins, Allie French, Amber Aguilar and Grace Shea.

“Camarynn and Eden were the main ones,” said Neighbors.

Villalpondo played in the North-South All-Star game earlier this month. Last season, she averaged 14.9 points per game and 10.3 rebounds per game.

Meanwhile, Wiggins averaged 9.5 points per game and 2.5 rebounds per game last season.

“Allie and Grace were just solid contributors,” Neighbors said. “Amber Aguilar was another person, cool headed that we’re going to miss.”

Neighbors admits that the Lady Rockets will be a young team this season. However, there are some key veterans coming back.

“Bailey Beene is the obvious one,” Neighbors said. “She has a great attitude just teaching some of these newer kids some of the plays. She’s a born leader and it’s showing with how she’s leading the team right now.”

Neighbors will also be looking to Cielo Salinas and PJ Villareal to provide leadership as well.

Villareal said she was called up to the varsity roster during the halfway point of district play.

“It was a big difference going from JV to varsity,” Villareal said. “It was a real big confidence booster.”

Even though the Lady Rockets are involved in summer play right now, Neighbors feels Goddard is functioning like a united household.

“Everybody loves playing together,” Neighbors said. “The teamwork aspect is just phenomenal right now.”

Neighbors admits that last season’s first round loss in the state playoffs was a negative for the Lady Rockets, who won the state title the year before.

“We just had a tough first round matchup that was bad for that group to go through and just showed this year’s team that you’ve got to play every game like it’s your last no matter who you play,” Neighbors said.

Neighbors thinks teamwork and competing hard during the upcoming season will land the Lady Rockets back in the playoffs.

Meanwhile, as Villareal gets ready for her final season, she would like to see her teammates just breathe.

“I’d like us to improve and feel confident when we play and just to relax and have fun and have confidence,” Villareal said.