Three new coaches are piloting Moriarty, Estancia, and East Mountain high schools’ varsity girls’ basketball programs. With the season kicking off this week, The Independent talked to the three new skippers: Estancia High’s J.C. Batts, Moriarty High’s Erin Edwards, and East Mountain High’s Robbie Dolce.
J.C. Batts, who has been an assistant coach in multiple sports at Estancia High for the past several years and coached at Moriarty High and Moriarty Middle School before that, replaces former Lady Bears’ head coach Mike Trujillo who left at the end of last season.
Estancia kicked off its 2019-20 campaign in Albuquerque Nov. 27 against the Bosque School Lady Bobcats and the Lady Bears came up on the short end of a 36-29 defeat.
“It was a lot of chaos,” Batts said about his team’s first outing. “The girls were very nervous, we didn’t finish, and we couldn’t overcome an obstacle that we created ourselves.”
Aliyah Padilla’s layup in the game’s first 30 seconds gave the Lady Bears a short-lived lead but after that Estancia played catch up for most of the contest.
Jenna Fastnacht hit a 3-pointer midway through the second quarter to pull the Lady Bears within 2 points and Jayde Perea tied the score with a pair of free throws before Bosque took a 17-14 lead at halftime.
“The way we were playing, I was amazed we were only down by 3 at the half,” Batts said.
Estancia took the lead twice in the third quarter, going up 18-17 on Olivia Anaya’s layup, and then inching ahead 20-19 on a jump shot by Daniella Ponce.
But Bosque regained the lead by the end of the third and never trailed again.
Fastnacht sank her second 3-pointer with under a minute remaining in the game to lead the Lady Bears with 12 points. Padilla chipped in 5.
Estancia is sporting a relatively young squad, having graduated seven seniors—five of them starters—from last year’s team that went 22-6 and went to the Class 2A state tournament as the No. 5 seed.
“I think we lost some very experienced players, I don’t have that experience this year but there’s no excuse, we still have to overcome,” Batts said, adding, “I don’t care about last year, all I care about is moving forward.”
The Lady Bears’ next game is Dec. 3 at Hatch Valley, followed by the Santa Rosa Lady Lions Classic tournament Dec. 5-7.
Erin Edwards replaces longtime Lady Pintos head coach Joe Bailey, who retired in May.
Edwards has been the head basketball and volleyball coach at Route 66 Elementary and Edgewood Middle schools, and has been an assistant coach at Moriarty High, but this will be her first stint as a varsity head coach.
“I just thought, what the heck, I can do this,” Edwards said.
She noted that the number of kids trying out this year is down from years past. But she said her smaller roster is offset by her players’ hustle, desire and determination.
“I feel like this group of girls, they push it, they want to
play, they want to try hard, they want to be good and that’s what I want,”
Edwards said. “I want kids who want to be basketball players that want to be
coached—and they’re having fun.”
Edwards also noted that the team won’t have the height that it did last year—having lost two tall post players in Meredith Wilson and Brooke Burch.
“We don’t have a whole lot of posts so that’s not going to be our strength,” Edwards said. “But we’re quick, we can shoot the ball, we can rebound, and we’re tough.”
The Lady Pintos will start the season with four consecutive road games and won’t play at home until the annual Alice King Tournament.
The Lady Pintos’ first game is Nov. 30 at Bernalillo.
Robbie Dolce was the assistant coach for East Mountain’s Lady Timberwolves’ varsity squad last season, and when Pat Sanchez left after just one year at the helm, she said the players asked her to take the reins.
“The kids and parents came to me and asked, ‘Will you coach?’ So, I threw my hat into the ring,” Dolce said.
Dolce, who attended Eastern New Mexico University on a basketball scholarship, coached at Moriarty High and Moriarty Middle School in the 1990s. She said she’ll be taking a different approach with the team this season, including instilling more respectfulness and discipline as well as rotating the starting five.
“Respect is a big thing, being respectful of others,” she said, adding, “I’m going to have a top eight, and then the rest will have to vie for the remaining positions. Everyone’s going to get a chance to start, everyone’s going to get as many minutes as possible.”
Dolce said she likes all the positivity she’s seen in the players.
“We’ve been doing a lot of team-building activities, trust-building activities, and they know they can trust each other,” she said. “They’re all willing to work together and they know there are consequences.”
The Lady T’Wolves haven’t had much success the past few seasons, posting a 3-19 record last year and 4-23 the year before. But Dolce said everyone is “pretty pumped” for the first game.
“I couldn’t ask for better girls, we’re all really excited,” Dolce said. East Mountain kicks off the season at home Nov. 29 against Hot Springs.
Ger has been writing and shooting photos of high school sports for The Independent for 15 years. His dedication to youth athletics goes beyond sports reporting. He is past president of East Mountain Little League and works as a baseball umpire. He lives in Edgewood with his family.