Home Sports Local Sports Goddard looks to advance against No. 4 Highland

Goddard looks to advance against No. 4 Highland

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Goddard’s Lana Morley (20) drives the ball against Portales’ Alexis Ryen (21) last week in Portales. The No. 13 Lady Rockets hit the road tonight and travel to Albuquerque to take on No. 4 Highland at 6:30 p.m. (Steve Notz File Photo)

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No one can question the success of Goddard basketball coach Jared Neighbors — how he prepares his team for this time of the year — “Winning Time.” His teams have made it to the state playoffs in his six seasons on the bench winning a Blue Trophy in 2016 with a 35-30 win over Los Lunas. That team played only six players, on this team everyone plays and is needed.

This is the team Neighbors has dreamed of, he has youth with two freshmen, one of them is Daci Smith, who has come on as the season has progressed. She is able to pull up and hit the mid-range jumper and is a viable deep-three shooter.

The other freshman is the athletic, Ericca Cannon, perhaps one of the team’s best one-on-one players. She has been able to create her own shot when needed. Cannon can get to the rim and create pressure on defenses and is quick enough to pull up for the jumper from the elbow on in.

Neighbors has experience with three key seniors — ladies that play in the middle — Lana Morely and sister, Kelsey Morely along with defensive stalwart, Aliyah Valdez in the middle. They give the team height and must limit Highland to one shot and look to kick the ball out and run. Valdez has to score enough to keep the defense honest and open up shots and three-point shot for her teammates. Both Morleys have to crash the board and keep balls alive for second point chances.

Highland has a 6-foot-1 player in Callee Crawford, a 6-foot-1 point forward in Zoriah Jackson to go along with Yolanda Miranda at 5-foot-10. Highland is athletic, Goddard will have to limit their big plays and not let the Lady Hornets get on an emotional roll. Highland is not very deep.

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Neighbors has a hustler in Ambrosia Teasyatwho, who has a knack for being around the ball and making the right play at the right time. She will have to continue to put the ball back up off of rebounds she collects. Neighbors has a defensive stopper in Tanya Ueland. She will probably be assigned the team’s best offensive player and has to stay out of foul trouble. Ueland has the ability and quickness to shut down whoever she is assigned to.

Guard Alexis Sandoval, need anyone say anything? Sandoval is able to pull up at the elbow, or cross over and get to the rim. She has improved her game by being able to hit an open teammate, which speaks to Goddard’s unselfishness. Sandoval is able to get hot in a hurry and score in bunches and create her own shot.

Twins Sarah and Emily Mathison along with sophomores Alexis Hoover and Alyssa Linares bring with them championship pedigree from being on the district soccer team and last season’s basketball team.

One of the best things coach Neighbors likes about this team is they are able to play team ball and not care who gets the points or credit. On this team, everyone is a star and together they help make each other superstars by playing as a team.

“I’m super proud of this team,” Neighbors said. “We’re scrappy, and fighters. I would have never guessed we would have had 22 wins going into the playoffs. I like the competitive spirit of the team, game in and game out, we fight until the final horn. It’s encouraging for this year and the future.”

Goddard (22-7) will also have to limit the Lady Hornets fast break opportunities because they like to push the ball and play tempo as well.

“We have not played Goddard lately,” Highland coach Lonnie Neal said. “We don’t know much about the team to be honest. We try to be an uptempo team and use our size.”

The Lady Rockets are a hot team going 4-1 in their last five games. This will be the first meeting with Highland. According to coach Neighbors, his team is ready for an up-and-down game. The thing that concerns him is that Highland is athletic and tall. Goddard has the advantage because they are deeper than the Lady Hornets.

“We have to protect the ball,” Neighbors said, and we have to keep them (Highland) off the boards. We have to contain their players getting put-backs.”

Goddard is prepared for this game and the scheduling that Neighbors did early in the season, scheduling three games in a row, was for this point to get his team ready for this game and next week, should they advance.

Goddard is in their second season, so the young players are now grizzled veterans. If they can get past this team and don’t beat themselves, Goddard could be a tough out and be heading to Albuquerque.

“I’m expecting a fun game,” Neighbors said. “Last week was crazy with three games in one week. I feel we are rested and ready to go. The kids are itching to get out there. We have nothing to lose. We like the matchup. It is a winnable game and we are going to have to play our best ball and play good, solid defense against them to give ourselves a chance in the fourth quarter.”

Goddard plays at 6:30 p.m. today at Highland.

Sports editor J.T. Keith can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 304, or sports@rdrnews.com.