There’s an eerie feeling about what is happening with the Goddard girl’s basketball team. For Rockets’ coach Jared Neighbors, he is in his element. This is the first time Neighbors has played all of the players the team suits up. He has taken a young, talented, raw group of players and molded them into a team — a team in his image. Pesky, attacking and relentless.
That’s fine with him, because it’s the first time he is able to play the kind of basketball he has wanted to play since he got to Goddard. With no superstars on the team, this is truly a team effort — and it took everyone to hold off the Sundown Roughnecks, 54-44, Tuesday night at Ground Zero.
“This is a great schedule for us,” Neighbors said. “Sundown is the same team we played last year, they didn’t graduate anyone off of last year’s team. We got up by 10-15 and couldn’t get ahead by 20 points. Sundown is a team that doesn’t back down.”
The win has the Lady Rockets (11-2) off to their best start in Neighbors’ sixth season on the bench. Neighbors stated he loves going to practice and the team is close, with an “all for one” mentality. No one cares who scores — it might be Alexis Sandoval, as it was against Sundown: she scored a team-high 15 points, followed by Ambrosia Teasyatwho as she chipped in 10 points.
Daci Smith put in a quiet seven points. Kelsey Morley had six points and her sister Lana Morley kicked in three points.
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“This is the best start we’ve ever had,” Neighbors said. “This is a fun group to coach, they’re really athletic. We’re not peaking by any stretch. We can improve and cut down on our mistakes.”
Speedy guard Ericca Cannon scored four points. Cannon is able to get her own shot and keeps defenses honest with her ability to turn the corner. Cannon is a nightmare cover because of her ability to stop on a dime and pull up for a jumper. Allyah Valdez had five points and was a key rebounder.
Most teams have one unsung hero, but Goddard has a team of unsung heroes this season. Everyone does the dirty work. Some players score more than others, but all of them are a threat to put the ball in the basket, including putting the ball back off a rebound. All of the players know their role, but on this team, their roles seem to merge.
“We’re still making a lot of young, rookie mistakes,” Neighbors said. “With our freshmen and sophomores and really, just our whole team. We have to work through some of that and this is a good experience to work through some of that.”
Neighbors has wanted to get up and down the court since he first arrived. It wasn’t until this season that the opportunity presented itself. Early in the season at the City of Champions Tournament, Neighbor’s biggest concern was getting his team in top condition. In less than a month, Goddard is out-conditioning teams. By the fourth quarter, a lot of their opponents are bent over holding their shorts gasping for air during a break in play.
“These games should help us come district time,” Neighbors said. “We’re just learning each other, we still have the rest of a January before districts start. We have time to work through some things before districts. You can see where we’re getting teams tired, and if we’re tired we have to substitute for them. That’s the beauty of this team, is we can keep this pace right now, and we have players that can get the job done.”
Goddard plays at Ground Zero at 2:30 p.m. Saturday against Chaparral.
Sports editor J.T. Keith can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 304, or email@example.com.