Hobbs News Sun

Girls’ basketball Lea County POY: Lewis’ leadership, grit led state’s top team to title

Amaya Lewis (22) and MacKenzye Gibson smile in relief after winning a stunning Class 6A state title this past season. Lewis led the way the entire year, helping her to earn a second straight Lea County Player of the Year award.

Practices after a loss typically aren’t fun for players, especially when they play for a coach like Joe Carpenter on the Hobbs girls’ basketball team.

The practices consist of incredible attention to detail. Every little thing is a big thing. Optimal effort is required, the highest level of competitiveness is expected, and one who doesn’t treat the practice accordingly is bound for a good talking to, to put it lightly.

This is the kind of practice the Lady Eagles had after losing for just the second time this past season on Jan. 9, falling 48-44 to Las Cruces. Carpenter had those girls working.

Most athletes dread the intensity. But most players aren’t Hobbs’ Amaya Lewis.

“(It) was probably my favorite practice I’ve ever had in my entire life,” she said.

Why?

“It was just so hard,” Lewis continued. “I feel like that practice helped us win (the championship), honestly. It just got us back in our groove. We didn’t lose a game since.”

Yes, it seems Lewis is a different kind of breed when it comes to basketball players. Or just a special breed, if you prefer.

The senior served as the Lady Eagles’ leader in just about every category this past season, from scoring, to defense, to playing with maximum effort. You name it, and Carpenter will say she’s got it. And without her, Hobbs probably doesn’t win the Lady Eagles’ second-ever state championship like it did this past season against Cibola.

Lewis settles in the paint against Eldorado.

She was clearly the best player on the best team in the state with her sheer athleticism alone, and that’s why she’s the Hobbs News-Sun Lea County Player of the Year for a second straight season.

“Her athleticism is probably the best I’ve ever coached,” Carpenter said of Lewis. “She’s a very experienced player, so she knows how to play the game. … When you have a good player like her, it makes your job a lot easier.

“There’s probably not a surprise (she’s player of the year).”

Lewis dominated this year in a dominant season for the Lady Eagles (30-2).

The senior, who committed to play for New Mexico Junior College next year, averaged 17.4 points, 6.1 rebounds and 3.4 steals per game. Remember Carpenter isn’t like most coaches that like to play their stars for nearly all 32 minutes of the game, so Lewis earned plenty of rest while the backups got in reps. Those 17 points per game easily could have been 20-plus.

She earned District 3-6A MVP, and got up to 1,723 career points while only missing one game throughout all four years. She’s also racked up 573 career rebounds, 304 career steals and 301 career assists.

With how good the team was this year by losing a mere two times, it might be easy to forget the impact Lewis had. Especially with how good the Lady Eagles still were without her on the floor.

But Carpenter isn’t so easy to fool.

“I thought she showed great leadership skills on the court,” he said. “When she needed to really take it to another level, I felt like she did that. She had the ability to do that. … I think this year, more than last year, she made people around her better and I think that’s one of the key things that people don’t understand.”

Perhaps the best part about it? Lewis doesn’t seem to care all that much about the individual accolades.

When asked how it felt to be the Lea County Player of the Year again, she said, “I’m pleased to honor Lea County in that way and I’m honored to get that award.” The robotic tone of her voice didn’t project much enthusiasm, though.

That’s because all she really cared about is getting the state championship with her teammates. Heck, after the team beat Cibola in overtime for a tight win, Lewis practically glued her hands onto the trophy and carried it with her into the media room when getting interviewed.

“It took me about four hours (to let someone else hold it),” Lewis joked.

Her grip on that hardware alone shows just how much the championship meant to her, but she put the feeling into words after finally having some time for it to sink in.

“It feels like I’ve just accomplished something that I’ve been waiting to accomplish since I was like five years old,” Lewis said. “I’ve been going through state championships since I was in the first grade, every single year watching it. And to just be able to finally win one my last year is a feeling I can’t explain. I feel like there’s nothing left behind.”

Beyond that desire to win, Carpenter raved on how committed she was to the game.

Lewis splits defenders in state title game.

“She’s at every practice, she’s on time, she puts in just as much time and effort (as anyone),” he said. “Her basketball work ethic is outstanding. … Overall, she’s a pretty dang good kid.”

Whenever the team needed a big steal, Lewis, MacKenzye Gibson or Amaya Smith would get it. In the fourth quarter of the semifinal game against Rio Rancho, Lewis put the team on her back offensively with double-digit points in the frame.

Even Lewis could recognize the things she did this year and look back in excitement, and quite frankly wasn’t surprised she earned the POY honor.

“I think I knew when and when not to attack,” she said. “Last year, I’d say, we’d be down and I would attack, attack, attack, and I knew that wasn’t the right thing to do. But this year, I knew how to play the game. I had patience, and I feel that helped us.”

Though she’s a senior, this won’t be last we see of her in Hobbs, either.

The NMJC Lady T-Birds are coming off a deep run in the playoffs, and Lewis will be added to the mix to try to get even deeper next year. She’s excited to develop under coaches Drew Sanders and Alex Furr.

“I’m really excited about it,” she said. “It’s going to give me a year to build my strength. … This is going to be the year they bring the fundamentals out of me. I’ve always been athletic, but I’ve never been able to master the fundamentals.”

Though, when it comes down to it, don’t expect Lewis to focus too much on what she’ll accomplish individually. She’ll be going after that trophy, and quite possibly could be looking at some more hardware come this time in 2019.