With the halfway point of the girls basketball season passing this week, Pojoaque Valley is in an enviable position.
Ranked No. 2 in the most recent New Mexico Over Time Class 4A coaches poll, the Elkettes were the last undefeated team in the class.
“There’s a little bit of pressure knowing all the teams coming up know that we’re unbeaten and they want to beat us,” said junior guard Michaela Martinez. “But it’s not too tough to play with it. We just know that we have to play like we know how. And that’s what we’ve been doing.”
At least until Thursday, in the opening round of the Portales Shootout, when Carlsbad came back from a 27-17 halftime deficit to win 45-41 in the opening round of the Portales Shootout.
Pojoaque, in its fourth season under Seledon Martinez, was coming off a 23-6 season when it reached the semifinals before losing to Moriarty 47-38.
All that loss did was fuel the Elkettes for their run this season.
“I knew we were going to be competitive,” Martinez said. “We’re only halfway through and what have we proved? We haven’t proved anything. I asked them (the team) what do we have now and they said, ‘We have another have a season.’
What the Elkettes also have is an uncharacteristic northern New Mexico team. They’re not going to run and gun you up and down the floor, although they certainly can. They’re not going to press, press, press for 32 minutes, although they’re capable of doing that, as well.
No, what Pojoaque is going to do is take what the opponents give, play snarling defense and just win, baby.
“My idea is to go out and do what we do best against whatever it is they do best,” Martinez said. “We have to try and execute. In 4A and 5A ball, in my opinion, when you get to the state tournament, you’re going to have to be able to score in the half-court set. You’re not going to be able to run it every possession. Against a good team, they’re going to make pressure plays, and break the press and score. You have to be able to answer what they did.”
It helps that the Elkettes are not built like a normal northern New Mexico team, either.
The team has pretty good height, starting with 5-foot-11-inch sophomore post Ashten Martinez, who leads the team in scoring, at 10.7 a game.
Michaela Martinez is right behind her, scoring 9.3. While Michaela Martinez, who is 5 feet, 8 inches tall, primarily plays shooting guard, where she drives it to the hole, she also takes a turn at the point and can play post in a pinch.
“Coach has me run point some days, he’ll have me play post,” she said. “I’m pretty tall compared to some people. But I like shooting guard. I do shoot some (3-pointers) when I’m open, but I like to drive into the basket.”
As a matter of fact, the Elkettes by and large can mix and match on the floor. Numerous players have the ability to light it up and they all take pride in the defense, the coach said.
“If you play solid defense, you have a chance to stay in the game,” he said. “So we try to emphasize that as much as possible.”
It shows in the scores as just two teams have topped 50 points this season and eight have scored eight or less.
“Undefeated, I didn’t believe we would be,” coach Martinez said earlier in the week, before Thursday’s defeat. “I thought we would have slipped up against somebody. To win a state tournament, though, you have to be good and you have to be lucky. Everything has to be fall into place for you. We have been able to maintain what we’ve needed to do to just keep us where we have to be.”
What also helps is the team has continuity and leadership with five seniors: Sara Vigil, Taylor Roybal, Adrianna Quintana, Camille Cordova and Abril Mendoza.
“The kids are really good kids,” he said. “Some bought in from the beginning and others have bought in along the way. My program, I’m strict, but I’m fair.”