Copyright © 2018 Albuquerque Journal
At Roy High School, the athletic teams are known as the Longhorns, and at Mosquero they are the Pirates. However, during the girls basketball season, a new team formed: Roy/Mosquero. And out of respect for each other, the team came up with a new nickname: the Lady Blue.
The nickname seemingly typifies the unity of the players, who came together from their respective small schools located in northeastern New Mexico and separated by 20 miles. There are four players from Mosquero, which has 11 high school students, and three from Roy, which has 10 high school students. Remarkably, they reached the quarterfinals of the New Mexico state Class 1A playoffs.
Roy/Mosquero began as one of 96 teams (eight squads across 12 classifications) in New Mexico’s high-school version of March Madness.
The seven players — Riley Clavel, Kylee Lewis, Kyra Maxwell, Ammarie Rodriguez, Kindal Smith, Baylee Horn and Haley King — wore bright blue jerseys that read “Roy” on the front, and “Mosquero” on the back.
They represented well in the first half of their game Wednesday at Bernalillo High School, and had the look of a darling underdog about to pull off an upset as a No. 11 seed. But No. 3 Quemado outscored the Lady Blue by 18 in the second half for a 52-31 win to advance to today’s semifinals.
Last year, Roy/Mosquero reached the final four, but lost four senior starters to graduation. Clavel, then an eighth-grader, was the only player to return this season with signficant playing time. She scored a game-high 20 points in the quarterfinal loss.
During the summer, there was uncertainty there would be enough players from the two schools to form a team, said former coach Bob Libby, who teaches History, Physical Education and Driver’s Education at Mosquero, where he is the athletic director. Among the players, Horn moved to Mosquero from Texas, Maxwell is in her first year of organized basketball, and Lewis is an eighth-grader.
“We just hope we’ll have enough girls from year to year,” Libby said. “It’s a different world.”
The schools know they must bring their players together, otherwise there wouldn’t be a team. They split the practice sites during the week, sometimes training three days at Mosquero and two at Roy before the regular season began, said Coach Blair Clavel, Riley’s father. Home games were also divided, or sometimes played at either Roy or Mosquero if it was closer for the visiting team.
Away games were usually challenging, especially during the state tournament. In the first round, the Lady Blue traveled 500 miles one way to play at No. 6 seed Animas, where they scored a 40-37 win. Coach Clavel drove one of two Suburban trucks carrying the players and team staff.
For the quarterfinal game against Quemado, more teachers and the entire Mosquero High School student body — all 11 of them — came to the game. Many of them wore specially designed T-shirts. All seven of the players’ names were written on the back. Lyn Ray, who teaches agriculture, science and language arts at Mosquero, wore her shirt with pride.
“It’s not a school,” Ray said of Mosquero. “It’s a family.”
That also also applies to Roy/Mosquero. Their fans cheered wildly after Horn made the Lady Blue’s first basket. When the Lady Blue trailed in the second half, the fans continued to encourage, and chanted: “Go Blue! We believe in you!”
At Roy, a live stream of the game was shown for its students, said Betty Martinez, an administrative assistant who is also the school’s bus driver.
“This is the only way we can play as a team,” Martinez said. “Our kids love it. That’s what matters.”
Coach Clavel, who was an assistant last year, said he was proud of his team and what the seven players were able to accomplish.
The Lady Blue (16-11) is a young squad. Against Quemado, one eighth-grader (Lewis), two freshman (Clavel, King), one sophomore (Maxwell) and a junior (Horn) started for the Lady Blue.
This small-schools team just might be around again in the state tournament next year. But it will be more challenging since strong Class 2A teams, such as Logan, Fort Sumner and Tatum, are being moved down to Class 1A by the New Mexico Activities Association.
“A little, bitty school like ours will have a tough chance to make it back,” Clavel said. “We only have 21 kids in the two high schools. It’s a little overwhelming. It’s going to be tough.”