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Demonettes adjust to injury

Santa Fe’s Kayla Herrera, left, and Jackie Martinez, right, celebrate after winning their semifinal game against Valencia last March. Herrera, the team’s leading scorer, will be back on the court for the Demonettes this season. (Eddie Moore/Albuquerque Journal)

Santa Fe’s Kayla Herrera, left, and Jackie Martinez, right, celebrate after winning their semifinal game against Valencia last March. Herrera, the team’s leading scorer, will be back on the court for the Demonettes this season. (Eddie Moore/Albuquerque Journal)

The off-season was a costly one for the Santa Fe High School girls basketball team.

Standout post Sabrina Lozada-Cabbage, who earlier this week signed to play at D-I Wichita State, tore the ACL in her knee and will miss the season.

It’s not exactly what the defending Class 4A state champions needed as they move into one of the most challenging Class 6A districts.

“It’s going to be tough,” Demonettes coach Elmer Chavez said. “So far, the other sports haven’t fared well. But I feel we have the most experience coming back. If we can get on a little bit of a streak, we’re going to go in there fighting. I can see us probably being in the mix.”

Chavez does have some room for optimism: Santa Fe returns leading scorer Kayla Herrera, who just signed with D-II Fort Lewis after averaging 17 points a game as a junior.

And fellow senior starters Sabrina Padilla and Brianna Martinez also return after averaging 10 points a game last season.

Still, Chavez knows Santa Fe doesn’t have an easy task ahead.

“She was our post,” he said of Lozada-Cabbage. “She was ranked the third best player in the state so it’s tough to replace her. We’re just going to have to make up by playing better defense, passing the ball better, doing the little things that we need to do.”

The Demonettes do have some tall girls who will slide into the post to help fill the void in new starter Ashley Leyba (5 feet, 10 inches) and backups Elena Gonzales (6-2½) and Rayann Bonnell (6-1).

If there is any bright side to the injury, it is that it occurred early enough in the summer that the team had time to adjust to the new lineup.

“We played without her all summer and they’ve adapted well,” Chavez said. “We’ll miss Sabrina definitely, but I think we’ll be all right.”

Especially if the team’s strenuous, early-morning practices pay off.

“Our expectations are the girls work their butt off in practice,” he said. “We try to make it so hard on them that, when it gets to a game, it will feel like they are on vacation. We run a lot more sprints than the track teams.”

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