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Cheyenne Martinez quietly leads by example

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Roswell’s Cheyenne Martinez goes up for a shot against Goddard Jan. 15. (Shawn Naranjo File Photo)

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With Roswell’s girls’ basketball team up by 30 points and two minutes left in the game, Coyote coach Joe Carpenter looked down at the end of his bench and called on freshman Cheyenne Martinez, who would enter the game to help finish off a celebration that had begun earlier in the game and was a coronation to her freshman season.

Lady Coyotes’ forward Cheyenne Martinez takes a three-point shot from the corner against Deming at the Coyote Den Jan. 4. (David Rocha File Photo)

Martinez took to the court and played tight defense — she ran the floor on fast breaks and hoisted a shot that didn’t go in. When the clock ticked down, she and her teammates celebrated with each other and lifted the Blue Trophy, which has stood as one of the proudest moments of her high school career. Roswell soundly defeated Gallup, 59-41, at The Pit.

Martinez gained experience as a freshman and in her sophomore season, she helped lead the Lady Coyotes back to the final four with a new coach. Each season, Martinez has worked on her game and improved so that she feels comfortable taking the big shots when her teammates count on her most.

The 5-foot-9 senior has had to lead by example this year — she has been the first option on offense to hit a big shot or make an assist. On defense, she has been counted on to shut down the opposing team’s top scorer, as well as grab a rebound.

This season held so much promise after finishing 3-3 in district play last year. RHS coach Fernando Sanchez had some returning players decide to not come out for the team, and others decide to do other things leaving them really young with little experience and depth. Sanchez saw the team he had and made a decision to play younger players while trying to win this season but build for the future.

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“I think it is tough,” Sanchez said, “to go from supporting player to leader. I think she has shown a lot of growth in that area. It’s tough and I don’t think a lot of people realize that. I think growing up, people were either leaders or support, and then to go from support to leader, not a lot of people have to do that. Our roster, we made some decisions at the beginning of the year that changed our roster and made her have to step up and take on a bigger role. She’s learning things like Jaedyn De La Cerda has gone through.”

Sanchez noted that since Martinez is the focal point of the offense, it is hard when other teams’ game plans are designed to stop her. Roswell has lost nine games where they have either had the lead or been tied for the lead in the fourth quarter. This has turned in to a season where Martinez and Sanchez have had to teach the younger players to win.

“A win here,” Sanchez said, “and everyone is talking about how great this team is. Sometimes we have four sophomores on the floor at one time. Credit to them — they have been asked to win, normally the sophomores would be playing junior varsity ball. It means wonderful things for us in the future, but it breaks your heart for our seniors, like Martinez, Grace Velazco, Skylair Lopez, Aurora Vega and Anita Trusan. Girls that give me everything they have every day — my heart breaks for them to have to go through those growing pains.”

Not one to complain, Martinez has quietly tried to lead by example trying to show her younger teammates how to win and play Lady Coyote basketball. Martinez is the last senior to have been on varsity and played in the championship game three years ago.

This season for Martinez has been one of instilling a winning attitude into her younger teammates and how to do things the right way. She hopes that what she has tried to teach her teammates will pay off down the road after she leaves.

“She’s been a great leader to the young ones,” Sanchez said. “She has helped us compete a little better and turn the corner and gotten the young ones to know the level of intensity they have to play with.”

No matter the situation this season, Martinez has carried herself like a champion on the court and off. In her junior season, Martinez hit back-to-back game-winning shots against rival Goddard with no time on the clock in both games, to win the game, 31-30, at Goddard. The other came two weeks later at the Coyote Den when she made a sweeping move across the lane and let a Goddard defender go by her and hit a layup as the clock ran out to give the Lady Coyotes a 31-30 win.

Martinez is not a leader in the traditional sense. She does not yell at a teammate or berate them to get her point across, she just goes about her business and teaches quietly the way things are supposed to be done.

In a rebuilding season in which the wins have not come, it would be easy for Martinez to get frustrated and lash out at her teammates and coaches, but she has not. She has smiled and calmly talked about enjoying playing with her sisters and how there is no drama on the team.

“This season has been fun,” Martinez said. “We had more vocal leaders last year. I’m having fun this year and me and my teammates have bonded this summer.”

Martinez gives big kudos to her parents, Chris and Michelle Martinez, for encouraging her in sports. When Martinez is done with sports, she would like to be a pharmacist like her aunt, Teresa, who works at a hospital in Albuquerque.

“We’ve struggled,” Sanchez said, “and Cheyenne (Martinez) has been frustrated, but instead of turning that into something negative, she’s turned around and made it a positive and helped her younger teammates. I think that’s the greatest sign of leadership and made her a special player.”