Pecos girls coach notches 600th win
The milestones Ron Drake accumulates seem to pass him by like the mile markers between his home in Sandia Park and Pecos.
The Pecos head girls basketball coach is already close to 500,000 miles he’s driven to places like Santa Fe High, Española Valley, Pojoaque Valley and Pecos over the past 25 seasons in New Mexico. That doesn’t include the seven years he spent coaching at Immaculata in New Jersey, where he went 147-22, but didn’t travel near as much as he does now.
On Thursday evening, the state’s winningest girls basketball coach hit 600 wins with a convincing 58-15 win over the Desert Academy/Santa Fe Waldorf co-op team in a District 3-3A game at Milagro Middle School.
It was the ninth straight win for the Lady Panthers, who improved to 3-0 in district play, and it was supposed to be a momentous occasion.
Except for the coach, who saw 19 turnovers and couldn’t help but pick at that nit.
“We won and that was important, but the turnovers … ” Drake said. “We need to cut down on our turnovers. We like to play a fast game, but today I reeled them in. We didn’t press or pressure up top like we usually do.”
Part of that was out of deference to the Wild Wolves coached by Mike Velarde, who has coached under Drake, and Jason Duran, who coached under Drake at Pecos for the previous three seasons before Velarde recruited him to Santa Fe. But it was also because the Wild Wolves had no answer for Pecos’ speed and tenacity in its full-court press.
Even so, Pecos jumped out to a 23-2 lead and upped the margin to 36-4 at the half. The only blemish in the first half were 11 turnovers that frustrated Drake, but the Lady Panthers are accustomed to Drake’s game-time demeanor.
“He’s always on us, always yelling at us, making us work hard in practice, making sure we do all the little things,” senior guard Maria Archuleta said. “It’s so we can put it all together.”
The results can’t be argued. Pecos is 77-27 since Drake’s arrival for the 2014-15 season, has won or shared the regular-season district title and reached the state tournament in every season.
The only question is, how much longer will Drake coach?
“I’ll quit when it stops being fun anymore,” Drake said. “And I’m having a lot of fun with this team.”
It might Drake’s most complete team at Pecos. Six players average more than six points per game, freshman Trinity Herrera is second in the Class 3A in rebounding with 9.5 boards per contest. Against the Wild Wolves, the Lady Panthers showed a balanced attack, with five players scoring at least six points as Drake substituted five players at a time at four-minute intervals throughout the game.
Cassie Muller, the team’s leading scorer, had 12 points and freshman Alexis Gonzales added 11.
Muller was in her fourth game back after missing almost two weeks with a knee injury she suffered in the opening round of the Northern Rio Grande Tournament. Pecos went 4-0 without her as Herrera averaged 19 points per game in that stretch, Brittney Martinez had a 20-point game against Albuquerque Cottonwood Classical Prep on Jan. 9 and Destiny Romero had 13 in a 72-13 win over Monte del Sol two days later.
“We have more depth, and we have some good, young players,” Drake said. “We had three freshmen out there [Thursday] and one freshman does start [in Herrera]. She’s first in the state in steals and number-two in rebounding, so she’s got a good future in front of her.”
As long as the future looks to bright, Drake might as well sit back and enjoy the scenery, one win and one mile at a time.