SPORTS Escalante Girls Trophy

Escalante High School's girls basketball team holds up the second-place trophy at The Pit on Friday after the state championship game.

For the second year in a row, Escalante came up just short of a state championship.

Despite the loss, senior Brycelyn Martinez said through tears after the state final that she would not want to be on any other team.

“I’m proud of us that we made it this far,” she said. “We’ve been through five coaches in the span of five years.”

“We all worked really hard, and as a family,” senior Katelyn Hinds said. “And I wouldn’t have wanted to make it this far with any other team.”

The top-seeded Lady Lobos lost 44-30 to No. 7 Texico at The Pit in Albuquerque on March 10. Texico defeated each of the tournament’s top three seeds on their way to a state championship.

The number of heartbreaks for Escalante have been more than any high-schooler should bear. A year ago, they took a lead in the state final with 16 seconds remaining, only to watch it slip away seconds later. The year before, a fairly dominant season ended when a COVID-19 outbreak forced Escalante’s forfeit in the state tournament. Many of the same athletes lost close games in state volleyball tournaments that year.

The Lady Lobos also battled off-the-court issues during the season, which took a toll on the team as they uncharacteristically finished fourth at the Northern Rio Grande Tournament. But the group came together in the second half of the year and won 12 straight games before the final.

“Just because we lost today, we’ve won a lot in life,” Escalante Coach Bryan Gonzales said of the team. “They’ve learned a lot about life this year, about being in a team, and how to win, how to lose. Basketball ends for all of us at one point, but life keeps going.”

But in order to capitalize on the available talent, Gonzales knew he had to quickly adapt to the team.

“Sometimes when you implement a program, it takes years,” he said. “We had months. The way that they grasped on to it just shows their ability to learn, their intelligence.”

Escalante was doomed by missed shots in the final, though their defense largely held strong. They went 1-for-17 (6 percent) on 3-point shots in the game, missing the first 15 before hitting one in the final minutes, though many were good looks that just did not fall. In the second half, Escalante was just 3-for-26 (12 percent) on field goals, as Texico focused on stopping the post with the Lobos’ outside shots not landing.

“This rests on my shoulders,” Gonzales said. “I take the responsibility for this. Because it’s my job, ultimately, to have them ready for games … It wasn’t because of lack of effort.”

Martinez led the Lobos with 12 points, eight rebounds and seven steals. Hinds scored nine points off the bench and was at times the leading contributor on offense. Emma Maestas stayed on the court all 32 minutes, though she failed to score.

“They have pretty good defense, you have to give it to them,” Martinez said.

Escalante’s defense focused on stopping Texico guard Catelyn Breshears, using aggressive guarding by Hinds and Audriana Talamante to take Breshears, the team’s top player, out of plays.

“I was really frustrated,” Breshears said. “I couldn’t move, I couldn’t see. These girls (teammates) really stepped up and scored and rebounded well.”

But while Breshears only attempted five shots in the game, compared to 20 in the semifinals, she made four of them and finished with 10 points.

Hinds said the team was less nervous playing in the Pit for a second time. Escalante won the tipoff and scored first in the third minute of the game. But missed 3-pointers (0-for-5 in the first quarter) started to make their impact, and Texico led 11-7 at the end of the first quarter.

The Lobos came out hot in the second quarter, and for a moment it looked like they might run away with the game after a 10-0 run. But that lead evaporated and Texcio took a one-point lead into the locker room.

From the third quarter on, it was all Texico. Escalante shot poorly form the field, scoring just three points in the third quarter and allowing 11. When a run brought Escalante within five early in the fourth quarter, Texico quickly answered with a score and a foul.  Escalante never regained the momentum, and the 14-point final margin was Texico’s largest of the game.

In the semifinal, the Lady Lobos defeated No. 4 Capitan 46-33 at the Rio Rancho Events Center on March 7. Escalante fell behind in the third quarter, but made quick adjustments to rattle off a 15-1 run and dominate the rest of the game. (Full game story posted on

“It’s just our energy,” point guard Cipriana Garcia said after the game. “We just feed off of everybody’s energy on the team. Once everybody has energy, we just keep rolling with it.”

Escalante is losing six seniors from this year’s team, including a core of Martinez, Hinds, Maestas and Garcia that has led the team for years.

“They’ve set the standard,” Gonzales said of the seniors. “They’ve set a high bar. And the (younger) girls really look up to them. They’re not seniors that give the girls a hard time or anything, they have really helped in their development, and they’re always there for them.”

The group established a culture of winning for a girls basketball program that had only once previously been to the state tournament final (a 2017 loss to Tatum). The leading scorer from that team, Alex Marquez, is now an assistant with Escalante

A new group of young players will step up including junior Felice Baca, who had a strong game in the semifinal, and Paradise Velarde and Hannah Lopez, who had big moments in the final. The school’s strong junior varsity program is also ready to step up.

“I hope that the younger girls really step up and have the passion and the want that we did,” Hinds said. “And I know that they will. We have a lot of good players coming up. They’re going to build a really good program.”

(1) comment


Can you imagine if they didnt change coaches every year? I started watching these girls when these seniors were freshmen at NRG. I knew since then that these girls would be tough.

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