Four Socorro County basketball players capped their high careers this past weekend by playing in the New Mexico High School Coaches Association All-Star games at Volcano Vista High School in Albuquerque.

Magdalena’s Kambree Montoya and Socorro’s Tamra Fowler were selected to the Class A and Class 3A girls Red Team, and Magdalena’s Lanbrent Ganadonegro and Navajo Alamo’s Jacob Apache were Class A honorees.

Magdalena girls basketball coach Sara Sue Olney was selected to head the girls Class A Red Team and was joined by her staff of Danny Daniels and Jesus “Chuy” Perez.

With two practices and trying to figure out who she would start on Friday, Olney was focused on making sure all of her players got the All-Star experience. A huge grin stayed on her face whether the Red Team was up or down, and it never disappeared.
“I know everybody wants to come out here and win and I don’t like losing either. But what I didn’t want is somebody going home saying that All-Star game sucks because I didn’t even get to play,” Olney said. “I wanted everybody to feel like they contributed in some way, shape or form. Everybody deserves to be on the floor because they are an All-Star. Getting everyone playing time was my main concern.”

Leading by double-digits in the first quarter, Olney pulled her starters, including her senior Kambree Montoya, from play and put five more players on the floor. She remained diligent that all of her players got their time on the floor even when the score went in the Red Team’s favor and stayed that way.

“I honestly didn’t worry about who was going to play when and who was going to start and who was going to finish until we got to the gym, but the experience in itself was a blast,” Olney said.

Montoya’s role as a pushy defender worked out well, and when the senior was on the bench, she was busy talking to newfound friends.

“I want to thank my family, friends, teammates, and coach,” Montoya said. I couldn’t have done it without them. They helped me get where I am today as a person and a player. I also want to thank Coach Olney. She’s been here with me on and off the court, and I couldn’t have done it without her or my teammates.”

Socorro’s All-Star
Socorro senior Tamra Fowler helped lead the Lady Warriors to their second consecutive District 3-3A title this season, and she was surprised at how quickly she bonded with her new teammates.

“It’s a very fun experience. I loved playing with girls like that because they were as good as I was. It was fun to bond with them, and we did that in just a day,” Fowler said. It was cool to see how girls can work together.”

It was also a proud moment for Lady Warriors coach Amanda Saenz who made the trip to honor her player.

“It was great to see her play one last time. She scored six points. It’s always awesome seeing girls from our community have the opportunity to play with the best girls in the state. Not everyone gets this opportunity or achievement, and for her to see that next level is amazing,” Saenz said.

The Boys Side

Russell Huffman | El Defensor Chieftain
Alamo Navajo’s Jacob Apache looks for an open teammate during All-Star action.

Lanbrent Ganadonegro and Jacob Apache played pivotal roles for their teams this season as seniors and starters. After having played against each other over the years, they were both on the court at the same time as teammates.

The significance of the moment wasn’t lost on either player.

“It’s just an honor because with me just playing varsity for two years, it makes me feel like I’ve done so much. I’ve gotten better over the years that I played.” Ganadonegro said. “Basketball experiences have been preparing me for the future. I know I can go and work hard to achieve things and have a brighter future.”

Apache’s thoughts drifted toward his high school before he took the court.

“I was super excited when I learned I had been selected. There are some butterflies, but I am excited to get out there and represent Alamo Navajo,” Apache said.
Both players were noted by All-Star Red Team coach Sergio Castanon (Tularosa), who shared his thoughts on their work.

“Lanbrent is a really quiet kid, but once we start getting up and down, you can tell he’s comfortable on the court. He can play some ball. He’s a good shooter. I enjoyed being around him,” Castanon said. “I’m looking forward to seeing Jacob play tonight. He helped create a bond right away with his teammates. Many of these guys came in as not best friends, but it was cool to see how they just got along.”

Ganadonegro’s coach Jory Mirabal was there to watch his player being honored and reflected on what an all-star game means to high school players.

“I’m excited that they get another experience, and it’s the culmination of a career for a kid like Lambert. It’s good that a kid you have in your program who is so deserving gets a chance to come up here and represent us. It’s pretty awesome,” Mirabal said.


Russell Huffman, El Defensor Chieftain Asst. Editor