Tech Coach Scouts Sandia, Cibola
To find the concentration of power in Class 5A girls basketball for the 2009-2010 season, one need not stray much farther than the boundaries of Bernalillo County.
Top-ranked Sandia opened its season Monday night, throttling No. 3 (and shorthanded) Cibola 53-35 in a rematch of a state semifinal game last March won by the Cougars.
“It’s going to be an interesting year,” Sandia coach Susan Kubala said.
With 11 players returning, including senior post Ebony Walker and senior guard Jaleesa Russell (who signed with Western New Mexico), the Matadors look to be at the head of the class.
“We’ve improved a lot,” said Walker who had a team-best 18 points Monday. “We’re just not going to take ‘no’ for an answer.”
Monday night’s game attracted Texas Tech head coach Kristy Curry. She was there to check up on one signed recruit, Walker — who chose the Red Raiders over Notre Dame, Nebraska and Oklahoma — and to scout another, Cibola’s Amber Battle, a player that dozens of top-flight Division I programs already are full-court pressing.
The Cougars’ 5-foot-10 junior was phenomenal, with 17 points and 16 rebounds in a losing effort.
Cibola coach Lori Stephenson said virtually every school in the Big 12 and Pac 10 — including powerhouse Stanford — have Battle on the proverbial speed dial.
The Cougars, a state finalist last season, have two DI-caliber talents, the other being 6-1 senior post Korina Chapman who signed with Boston College. Chapman was ineffective and in foul trouble Monday, finishing with five points.
Sandwiched between Sandia and Cibola is No. 2 Eldorado, led by 5-1 sparkplug point guard Kya DeGarmo who signed last week with Nicholls (La.) State.
Las Cruces is the preseason No. 4 followed by Clovis and another Texas Tech signee, 5-10 senior Antiesha Brown.
Defending state champion La Cueva came in at No. 6; the Bears changed coaches in the offseason. Greg Berger resigned, former Lobo Abbie Letz — now Abbie Carlson after getting married 10 days ago — took over.
“I want to challenge them more as students of the game,” Carlson said. “I want them to know why they’re doing something.”
Valley (No. 7) and even Rio Grande (unranked) should be part of the conversation as well. Ravens coach Rick Espinoza had this to say of his team: “I think it’ll be Sandia or us,” Espinoza said.
Traditional power Rio Rancho, led by new head coach Pat Puentes, was gutted by graduation and the opening of Cleveland. The Storm are the preseason No. 10, following Hobbs and Mayfield.
METRO PLAYERS TO WATCH
Ebony Walker, Sandia: This 6-2 senior is a tremendous low-post presence, and, when she puts her mind to it, practically unstoppable at either end. Headed to Texas Tech.
Korina Chapman, Cibola: If it weren’t for Walker, we might be talking about the 6-1 Chapman as the area’s best post. She’s signed with Boston College.
Kya DeGarmo, Eldorado: Bound for Nicholls State, the 5-1 DeGarmo is a wily veteran, a physical defender, an underrated scorer and a terrific floor leader.
Bernadette Sanchez, Rio Grande: The 5-4 Sanchez is pure energy on the floor, and in addition to her driving ability she’s apparently become a better jump shooter.
Jalessa Russell, Sandia: The 5-9 senior guard, headed to Western New Mexico, makes everything go for the Matadors.
Amber Battle, Cibola: If you’re looking for the most athletic player in 5A, it could be Battle. Hyper-quick, the 5-10 Battle was Cibola’s most effective performer at state last season.
Angel Reyes, Valley: In a season filled with great guards, Reyes, a 5-3 senior, won’t get much pub, but she’s as valuable to the Vikings as any other guard is to their team.
METRO GAMES TO WATCH
Today: Valley at Eldorado, Rio Grande at Cibola
Dec. 10: Eldorado at Cibola
Dec. 18: Rio Grande at Valley
Jan. 2: Valley at Cibola
Jan. 5: St. Pius X at La Cueva
Jan. 7: Cibola at La Cueva
Jan. 8: Mayfield at Eldorado, Las Cruces at
Jan. 12: Eldorado at La Cueva, Sandia at St. Pius X
Jan. 19: St. Pius X at Eldorado
Jan. 23: Kirtland Central at St. Pius X
Jan. 29/Feb. 16: Sandia-La Cueva
Feb. 2/Feb. 19: Rio Grande-Eldorado