Wichita State, Fort Lewis College
Kayla Herrera, Sabrina Lozada-Cabbage of Santa Fe High basketball fame now displaying skills on court for Division 2 Fort Lewis College and Division 1 Wichita State University
Herrera a redshirt freshman with the Skyhawks, Lozada-Cabbage a sophomore with the Shockers
By ARNIE LESHIN
Shortly after Kayla Herrera's late 3-pointer from the corner brought the comeback lead for Santa Fe High and the state 4A basketball championship that went with it, she found fellow junior Sabrina Lozada-Cabbage and they celebrated.
That was 2014 when the top-ranked Demonettes, under head coach Elmer Chavez, stormed back from a deficit against 2nd ranked Los Lunas, to win their 10th straight game and finish at 30-2.
And Herrera and Lozada-Cabbage had many reasons to rejoice, but most of all they kind of grew up together playing hoops, played with and against each other, but this was their biggest gift of all, juniors, a state title on the floor of the University of New Mexico Pit, and maybe even yet another celebration their senior years.
But Lozada-Cabbage never got to play her final season. Knee surgery sidelined her from day one, the Demonettes were now in 6A, and had a 16-12 record against the tougher competition. Herrera, though, was a constant versatile player on the court for a team that obviously missed Lozada-Cabbage.
But after graduating together, they went their separate ways, Herrara to Division 2 Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colo., and Lozada-Cabbage to Division 1 Wichita State in Kansas.
They even changed their uniform numbers, Herrara from No. 12 at Santa Fe High to No. 13 as a Skyhawk, and Lozada-Cabbage from her high school No. 25 to No. 11 as a Shocker.
Also, it's nice to point out that Herrera celebrated her birthday Monday.
Most important, they haven't disappointed as college players. First the 6-foot-2 Lozada-Cabbage had to be cleared to play her freshmen season following the knee surgery. On December 29, she welcomed a belated Christmas gift as she was cleared to play against Oklahoma Christian and was on the court for about eight minutes.
As for Herrera, a 5-9 wing, she was a redshirt her freshmen campaign, but when she came into play the next season, she was ready to go. She was named Freshman of the Year in the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference and was selected to the All-Conference team. She started 27 of 27 games, came away with a 14.2 scoring average, and did her share of rebounding, assisting and defending.
She brought down 17 rebounds against Westminster and had 10 versus both Texas-Perimian Basin and Colorado Mesa. She had scoring highs of 27 twice, once against Colorado Mines and again against Chaddon State. She had seven other double-figure games.
Against Regis in the first round of the conference tournament played in Denver, Herrera played 31 minutes, scored 14 points and accounted for three rebounds and three assists. But it was the season finale for the Skyhawks after a 79-74 loss had them wind up at 21-7.
It was hard for her to be homesick when she was on the same roster with freshman Kaitlin Romero (Espanola Valley), freshman Jordyn Lewis (Ramah), sophomore Alyssa Yocky (Albuquerque La Cueva), junior Caitlin Dupree (Albuquerque Eldorado), and senior Astrea Reed (Albuquerque Sandia).
Romero is a 5-8 wing from Velarde. She was an All-State player her senior year at Espanola, leading the team in about every department and into the state semis.
She comes off the bench now, but is penciled into perhaps a starting role for her sophomore year.
She averaged 5.7 points per game and had a high of 15 at Eastern New Mexico. She handed out six assists against Western New Mexico, and came away with four steals versus Northern New Mexico, so she obviously saved her best for the these state schools she was familiar with.
She tossed in five 3s in the Eastern New Mexico contest and also brought down five rebounds. She finished the season with 50 assists and 58 rebounds.
She and Herrera are certainly not strangers. Before Santa Fe High was aligned into 6A and the Sundevils into 5A, they were opponents in District 2-4A and were the top two teams each season. In their championship season, the Demonettes edged Espanola at home in overtime to win the district tournament title.
Now the two are teammates.
Of course Romero is also no stranger to Lozada-Cabbage, but still on different teams. For Wichita State, Lozada-Cabbage, also teammates with Herrera on the SFHS volleyball team, had an up-and-down season for a team that finished at 14-14 and lost to Missouri Valley Conference champion Drake in the opening round of the conference tournament.
This game was on ESPN, something that goes with being a D1 school, and Lozada-Cabbage scored four points, blocked two shots and pulled down four rebounds. She wound up with 87 rebounds, 11 blocks, was 6-for-9 from the three, converted 13-of-19 free throws, and had a 4.2 scoring average.
Due to her late start because of the knee surgery, she played 11 times in 2016 and 15 this past campaign. She had perhaps her finest game at Bradley with 13 points, 17 rebounds, and a pair of blocks in 34 minutes time. Versus Loyola, she came away with a dozen points on 5-of-7 shooting from the field, both of these games coming this season.
The second-tallest player on the Shockers, Lozada-Cabbage should be confident her junior year with the experience she has had and the knee not causing any problems. But unlike Herrera, she has no teammates from New Mexico.
No matter, the two will never forget the celebration they shared after winning their school's first state championship since 1988.