District 5-2A MVP — in both volleyball and basketball. First Team All-State — in both sports, that is. And make that three years in

a row for basketball.

And as Peñasco girls basketball coach Mandy Montoya puts it, senior Carly Gonzales, the Taos News’ Female Athlete of the Year, is the best basketball player in the state.

How about one of the best athletes in the state.

“Her game was at a totally different level this year,” Montoya said. “This year she was the focal point of our offense. … My view is that she was the best [basketball] player in the state.”

Gonzales, who is graduating from Peñasco in late June after playing varsity sports for five years, will go down as one of the best athletes to come from a school in Taos County.

Her 21.7 points per game and 12.3 rebounds in girls basketball helped lead her Lady Panthers squad to the state championship game for the second time in three years. Even during the loss, Gonzales led her team with 18 points and 14 rebounds

While Peñasco failed to win its first-ever girls basketball state title, Gonzales was a big part of helping her team garner over 30 wins in a single season, including winning the Northern Río Grande Tournament over Pecos — the 2019 state champions.

Gonzales added to her basketball repertoire skills such as ball handling and passing after working with Montoya even before she was hired on as Peñasco’s coach. It showed more than ever in Gonzales’ senior season.

She first picked up a basketball around the third grade when she played in small tournaments in Peñasco and Northern New Mexico. Her biggest inspiration for the sport, though, was her sister, Charlyna Gonzales.

“My older sister is probably the reason why I joined cross-country and volleyball,” Carly Gonzales said. “She set the foundation for my sisters and me. … She’s kind of been my role model, and I try to follow in her footsteps.”

In volleyball, too, Gonzales was the leading figure. She scored 316 points total through the course of one season, 215 of which were kills.

During one November match against Escalante, Gonzales had the help of her teammates and went on to score all 15

points in the fifth and final set to seal the

Lady Panthers’ victory.

But Gonzales’ ability to perform well in volleyball didn’t stem from growing up playing the sport — she started doing volleyball programs around the eighth grade — it came from working hard, always. That is something her sister instilled in her, Gonzales said.

While many will call her quiet and reserved, Gonzales is also calculated and determined, and that’s why she was named MVP in both sports in her final year of high school.

Not only that, it’s Gonzales’ innate ability to juggle multiple hands at once — she played volleyball and ran cross-country simultaneously, and, you know, the whole going to high school thing — and still come out a master learner in each craft.

Gonzales’ volleyball head coach and assistant basketball coach Maxine Abeyta said she’s a “very quiet and humble young lady, which sets her apart from the rest.

“She creates a foundation for happy, healthy relationships, attracts the trust and respect of others and is committed to her values and goals. She’s the kind of person you want in your corner when the going gets tough. Her honesty and upbringing will take her far. She’s a great student, athlete and person.”

Gonzales’ hard work has landed her scholarship offers from multiple schools, including some in the state. Right now, though, she is still weighing her options and she says that her school of choice will most definitely come down to who offers the best future for her academically.

“Just being around my teammates for so long and just growing up around sports — because that’s what us small town kids do to stay busy — I feel very grateful,” Gonzales said.

She added: “I have to give credit to my teammates for helping me to push myself to be better.”

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