When the Medina family gathers for Thanksgiving Day dinner this year, they won’t just be talking turkey. They’ll be talking trash, in good fun.
After all, come Friday David Medina, coach of the girls’ basketball team at Los Lunas High School, will be facing off against rival Valencia High School, coached by his daughter, Micaela Medina.
Micaela says the “smack talk” started when her father was hired as the Tigers’ coach last spring.
“My dad is a great coach,” Micaela said. “I’m competitive. I learned that from him.”
David admits the Tigers-Jaguars match-up has been circled on the calendar for months.
“It’s been brewing since I got the job. We rib each other,” David said, who admits he’s not getting much support at home. “Ninety percent of the family — the aunties, uncles, grandpas and grandmas — are for her.”
The ties between the programs go beyond the family. David coached the Jaguars several times when New Mexico Activities Association rules prohibited a coach from leading their own players during the offseason.
Plus, earlier this year, some of the VHS players would attend open gym at LLHS.
Micaela believes “it helped bring the community together.”
David agreed. “It was kind of unique.”
Micaela has had good success at Valencia during her four previous seasons. The Jaguars were 18-12 last season, including an opening-round victory in the state tournament. This year, Valencia has just two seniors and only three Jaguars with varsity playing time.
As the team ran full-court drills, Micaela explained, “We will rely on athleticism and hard work to overcome a lack of experience.”
The Jaguars lost Zoe Brown, their only true post player, to an ACL injury. Micaela says it will change the team dynamic but believes guards Azalia Malizia and Jayden Montoya will help the Jaguars become more versatile. The VHS coach describes them as a “pain in the butt,” and “pesky” when it comes to playing defense, which she says is the team strength.
Malizia says the players have been working to overcome any deficiencies.
“We will compete,” Malizia explains. “The girls will step up. We’ll be able to get back to where we were last season,” and make the playoffs.
Valencia County basketball fans are certainly aware of David Medina. He was boys coach at Belen High School before a long stint at Del Norte High School, where he led the girls’ squad, including Micaela.
He has been a head coach for 24 years overall, and his first season at Los Lunas has brought new excitement.
“They are awesome kids, fun to be around,” David said.
However, there are challenges, too. After being one of the premier programs in New Mexico, the Tigers’ finished 9-18 last season, although they were 6-4 in district.
“I want the girls to be excited, we want to be competitive,” David said.
Senior Sadie Ortega said coach Medina’s style has been very different but a positive.
“We’re adjusting to everything,” Ortega said, adding, “We’re improving for sure. We need to tighten up our defense.”
The LLHS coach will rely on his go-to defense, a 2-3 match-up zone to keep the Tigers in games until the offense comes around.
The Tigers’ coach will also rely on his assistant coaches as he gets acclimated.
“I love my staff. Coach (Anne) Salazar (former interim head coach) has really helped me get to know the ins and outs” of the team.
As for the family feud, the players are aware of the importance of the game to their respective coaches.
“It means a lot,” the Jaguars’ Malizia said. “Coach really wants bragging rights, to have over the dinner table.”
The Tigers know they’ll need to play well.
“They’ve been our rivals,” said Ortega. “They’re a pretty good team. Solid.”
The Medinas have met once before in an official high school game, with Valencia defeating Del Norte by one point. The winner this time will have bragging rights for Los Lunas Schools and at family gatherings for the foreseeable future.
“It’s been an honor to learn from Dad,” Micaela says.
David proclaims, “Valencia is my second favorite team.”
Tip off is at 4 p.m., Friday, Nov. 25, at Los Lunas High School. The Tigers opened the season Tuesday at Las Cruces, while the Jaguars played Tuesday at Gallup.
The VCNB will profile the Belen girls’ team, and the county’s boys programs in future editions.
Mike Powers spent more than 40 years as a television news and sports anchor, mostly in the Albuquerque market. He has won numerous awards including New Mexico Sportscaster of the Year. He covers a wide range of sports, including the Valencia County prep scene.