George Maya has been at
Mayfield (Las Cruces)
for so long that he refers to himself as an "antique."
Maya, 52, is in his 19th year as the school's girls head basketball coach after serving a 10-year stint as an assistant coach on the boys team. The second-seeded Trojans (26-2) play seventh-seeded Eldorado (Albuquerque)
in a 5A state tournament quarterfinal game Tuesday at 1:15 p.m. at the Santa Ana Star Center in Rio Rancho.
"Coaching never gets old because you basically have an entirely different group every year," Maya said. "It's a new team, a new identity and that's what makes it so much fun."
In the last 15 years, few programs can rival the Mayfield juggernaut. In that span, the Trojans have made six state championship game appearances, winning the title in 2004, 2007 and 2011. Maya said this year's squad has been one of his most dominant, with all but three of its victories coming by nine points or more. One of those close games was a 47-45 decision over Eldorado (15-10) on Jan. 19.
In junior wing/post
, junior post Allie Pierce
and senior point guard Audrey Oliver
, the Trojans have three playmakers who can take over a game at any moment. McCants leads the team in scoring at 15.4 points per game, Pierce is averaging a team-high 9.3 rebounds per contest and Oliver averages 6.3 assists per game.
"Daeshi is overall our best player and top talent," Maya said. "Allie is really active in the lane and provides us with rebounding and toughness, and Audrey is one of those players who do so much more than what the stats indicate. She's really good with our press, she makes excellent decisions and does all the things nobody notices."
Although Mayfield's Big Three have been consistently solid all season, Maya goes to his bench early and often because his team employs full-court pressure from the opening tip. Opponents have a hard time with Mayfield's press because it's relentless, suffocating and hard to prepare for.
"Teams are going to struggle against us because we're going after you the whole game," Maya said. "That's what we've been doing for 18 years — our best offense is our defense. We've beaten teams that are probably better than us, but they couldn't handle our press."
Simply put, the Trojans defense can be downright intimidating at times.
"You can tell sometimes the girls on the other team are nervous," McCants said. "It's a really good feeling knowing you kind of have them right where you want them."
If Mayfield has an Achilles' heel, it's free throw shooting. The Trojans are shooting just 58 percent from the charity stripe, and in their only two losses of the season — both to Hobbs — they've missed free throws at critical moments.
"If we're in a close game and it comes down to free throw shooting, we're probably in trouble," Maya said. "But that's what is great about playing the games — you never know. We're going to have a close game in state, and the girls just might surprise me and make their free throws in the clutch."
Over the years, losses have proved to be more fruitful for the Trojans than victories. When Mayfield won a state title two years ago, it actually suffered a humiliating 63-18 loss to Coronado (El Paso, Texas) early in the season.
"The score was so bad that when I called it in to a couple of the newspaper writers, they thought it was a joke," Maya said. "One of them actually hung up on me. But that loss revealed a lot of flaws in our team. So from that game on, we did everything in practice 63 times, whether it was running sprints or lifting weights. When you're winning, you bypass everything and you think you're doing good. But once reality hits, you stop and tend to be more self-examining. We probably wouldn't have won state that year had we not lost the way we did. That loss showed us we had to get better — and we did."
The 2010-11 title run proved to be an emotional one for Maya, whose father, George Sr., died from complications of colon cancer three days after the Trojans beat Cibola (Albuquerque) 51-42 for the 5A championship. Maya actually missed the team's quarterfinal game against Carlsbad to be with his father in an El Paso hospital.
Even though his team was battling for a state championship, Maya had already made up his mind that he would stay at his father's bedside even if it meant missing the semifinal round. His father had other ideas.
"He told me to go coach the semis," Maya said. "That it was what I loved to do."
So Maya made the four-hour drive back to rejoin his team in Rio Rancho. The Trojans won the next two games to capture the championship, and Maya brought the trophy back to El Paso for his dad to see. There wasn't a dry eye in the room.
"It was a very special moment," Maya said. "It's something you'll never forget."