Slow starts are nothing new for Roswell coach Fernando Sanchez. The last three years he’s been coach, he’s had to start over with his concepts and adjusting to the different skill levels of the team he was given to coach. Granted, his first year here, he had Gatorade Player of the Year Jaedn De La Cerda to work with, and his coaching ability and her talents took them to the final four.
Last year, he had a young team to work with and some key players back from the final four team: Kaitlyn Holl, Anica Dillard, Alexandra Gonzalez and Cheyenne Martinez. Last season, his team started sluggishly and ended up making it to the state playoffs. Sanchez went to a different defense and offense that fit his team’s personality, and as the season wore on, the Lady Coyotes were playing their best basketball down the stretch.
For Sanchez, this year might be a little different. He is playing younger players than he’s had in the past and learned to be patient with his players more so than usual. On Saturday, Sanchez saw the fruits of his patience as he was rewarded with a clock-running victory over Chaparral, 66-26, at the Coyote Den.
“We played them really tough in the first quarter,” Lobos coach Lydia Guerrero said. “Our turnovers killed us. We had so many dumb turnovers and the lead extended because I decided to try another defense. I figured if we were going to lose, we might as well practice our man defense. We did that through the third quarter and fourth quarter, we just couldn’t locate quick enough. We struggled on the inside because we don’t have the physicality.”
Roswell, (3-8), started out the game on fire as Mercedes Velasco came out shooting and hit a three-ball from the top of the key to give the Coyotes a 3-0 lead. Velasco was wicked on the offensive end of the floor as she hit drives and a three-pointer to lead the team in scoring with 17 points. Roswell had it going as Makenzie Tarin added six points and grabbed countless rebounds to give the Lady Coyotes second-chance opportunities, which they capitalized on.
“I thought we were more disciplined tonight,” Sanchez said. “We talked about taking care of the ball more. Whenever you take care of the ball, it makes other players look good. I was proud of our girls and I thought they came out with the right mentality. Makenzie (Tarin) gets looked over a lot because she does so many little things for us. She doesn’t necessarily start, but when the game gets tight, she is going to be on the floor for us. She settles us down in the post area.”
During this game, coach Sanchez played a lot of players — two young sophomores were impressive with their hustle in Janae Faust and Clarissa Vega. Both had six points and five rebounds. During a run in the fourth quarter, senior Cheyenne Martinez lit it up from three-point land and also was tough to stop — she would fake the jumper and put it on the floor and take it to the basket where she would either convert, get fouled or both, as she scored 13 points in the game.
“Clarissa (Vega), she’s a big kid,” Sanchez said. “She’s learning how to move in our system because she is fairly athletic for being such a big kid. That’s a great thing to happen when those young kids get a chance to play. Janae (Faust) is a great defender for us. She’s going to get a lot better for us. She blocks some shots and gets some rebounds for us. She’s just got to find more and more confidence. As her confidence grows, she helps us a lot. I was proud of her.”
Roswell’s team is starting to play together. None was steadier than point guard Jalen Baca, who hit a three-pointer and kept her turnovers down. The team will need for her to be a rock as they play their next six out of seven games on the road. With 13 games left in the season, Sanchez is hoping that it will continue to click and his team will get better before district play starts.
“Cheyenne (Martinez) had a great game tonight,” Sanchez said. “I think she had a rough game last night. Cheyenne is a leader for us and she sets the tone for us in a lot of areas. When she takes care of the ball, it sets the tone for everyone else to take care of the ball. I thought Jalen (Baca) has been playing better every game. We have seen huge improvements in her taking care of the ball and getting us into sets.”
This game was done before halftime as Roswell went into halftime with a 33-13 lead. Roswell held Chaparral to four points in the second quarter as the defense forced turnovers and keyed their fast break. In the third quarter, it would be much of the same as the clock would run in the fourth quarter before Sanchez would put in his reserves to gain experience.
“We’re going to take one game at a time,” Sanchez stated. “I want us to focus on getting us better the remainder of the season. Hopefully, this win will catapult us into more wins.”
Roswell travels to Portales to play the Lady Rams at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday.
Las Cruces 72, Roswell 55
In what could be a preview for the 5A state title, Roswell scared the No. 1 team in 5A until they were undone by fouls and lack of depth. It has been a tough two games for the Coyotes playing back-to-back games against top 10 programs in the state. On Friday night against Onate, foul trouble doomed Roswell and against the No. 1 Las Cruces basketball team, the game was closer than the score indicated. Once again, foul trouble played a role in the game as point guard Taymon Burrola and shooting guard Dominic Nava had to sit in the fourth quarter.
With those two players out, it changed the game. Roswell is a different team when Burrola cannot play his game and back the opposing guard down in the lane, and either penetrate to score or dish to an open teammate for a three-point shot. When Nava is not able to gamble on defense and swoop to the basket after a steal or receiving a pass in the open court, his game is handcuffed.
Roswell bench players are good and young and are gaining experience — but experience could be by competition, pressure and the desire to get better in game conditions. The bench has and will win some games for Roswell this season. They will be an asset in district play and when the playoffs come around. But Roswell was playing the No. 1 team in the state in 5A — let’s chalk it up to growing pains.
“Our bench is solid and young,” Roswell coach Moses “Dude” Burrola said. “Playing against good teams like Las Cruces, you can’t make mistakes or miss open shots, and we did today. We gave up too many offensive rebounds and that was the difference in the game. I thought we played good.”
Burrola feels like his team has to rebound and stay out of foul trouble as the season goes on until his younger players gain more experience going forward.
“We have some things to work on this week,” Burrola said.
Miguel Baray led the Coyotes with 15 points. Cristian De la O had 13 points, Tarren Burrola had 12 points and Taymon Burrola contributed 11 points.
Roswell will face Chaparral at 2:30 p.m. Saturday.
Goddard 59, Pojoaque 51
RUIDOSO – The purpose of non-conference and tournament games is to find your teams’ identity and improve with each passing game. The Goddard Rockets did just that in their three games at the Ruidoso Mountain Madness Shootout. While the first game against Taos was one to forget, Goddard showed its character by winning the next two, including the final game on Saturday, 59-51, over the Pojoaque Elks at the Ruidoso Warriors Gym.
The Elks, (2-8), realized any chance they had of winning was to contain 6-foot-5, 230-pound Goddard center Derek Carrica. Anyway, that was the game plan. The Goddard senior showed why he was this week’s Alton’s Power Block Gym Athlete of the Week. He scored the Rockets’ first six points of the game by banging his bulking frame against the much scrawny looking Elks. Carrica was playing like a man among boys. He finished with 23 points tying Brandon Montanez who scored 23 points.
“You know, Carrica did great. He came out to ball (play) tonight. He had a little hiccup where he was called for a technical foul — we had to sit him for a while. But our kids kept their composure even when the Elks went on a 9-0 run, we kept the lead going into halftime,” Rockets coach Anthony Mestas said.
“We got some kids that normally don’t get to play — they got some playing time as we get ready for district, so that was a good thing,” Mestas said. The Rockets also wanted to work on improving their free throw shooting which they did on Saturday, making 16 of 32.
“Right there in the fourth quarter, we were only like 3 of 9. Had we made those, I would have been much happier,” Mestas said smiling.
After Carrica scored 10 points in the opening quarter, the Elks went to a different strategy. In the second quarter, they attempted to double and other times triple-teamed Carrica when he was fed the ball inside the paint. That only worked for a while. Carrica, who is a very well diversified center, went to the other part of his game, his passing. He looked for his teammates at the perimeter where Montanez scored most his points. On other occasions he found Jared Hicks and Jonah Chavez on give and gos, fundamental basketball at its best.
And when Rockets weren’t going there, they were hustling for loose balls. Case in point, as the third quarter was coming to end, Hunter Beene laid out for a loose ball, and had the presence to bank the ball off the glass and made it as the buzzer sounded, for a 50-45 lead heading into the fourth quarter.
As for Pojoaque, the only part of the game that kept them in this contest was their free throw shooting. They made their first 12 and finished 13 for 16 on the game.
However, the Elks didn’t get to the free throw line at all after the 5:20 mark of the third quarter. They didn’t dare challenge Carrica who finished with three blocked shots. The Rockets had five in all.
The Rockets finished 2-1 in the shootout. “We really wanted to come up here (Ruidoso) and go 3-0, but we’ll take 2-1. It’s better than going 0-3 or 1-2. Next week we’ll work on free throws, get some of our kids back, and bring up some freshmen,” said Mestas.
The Rockets will be back in action on Jan. 15 when they host crosstown rival Roswell.