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ALBUQUERQUE — Following a big second quarter, the Los Alamos Hilltopper girls basketball team looked like it had all the momentum heading into the second half Thursday.
Emma Fenske, however, was right there to take it back.
Los Alamos fell into a big hole to start off its game against the Volcano Vista Hawks Thursday, but played excellent defense and ran the press breaker to near perfection in the second quarter to get right back into the ballgame.
But the Hawks, spearheaded by Fenske’s game-high 22 points, 17 of them coming after the break, pulled away in the third quarter and never looked back, topping Los Alamos in the first round of the Joe Armijo Invitational 55-39.
The loss dropped the Hilltoppers into the losers’ bracket of the Armijo tournament, one of the premier events in the state. The Hilltoppers were scheduled to take on the Albuquerque Bulldogs Friday in the consolation bracket. Results of that game weren’t available at press time.
Volcano Vista, a Class 5A team on the rise under the guidance of head coach Lisa Villareal, who has a knack for getting programs on the right track, used an full-court press and slashing guard play to take a 10-2 advantage in the first quarter.
But Los Alamos (1-3) started to regroup by the end of the quarter, then got rolling in the second quarter.
Trailing 18-11 after one period, the Hilltoppers started effectively spreading the floor against the Hawk pressure, getting several easy buckets against it. Christine Larribas, who had a good first half Thursday, dropped a bucket in while being fouled and converted the ensuing free throw, sparking a 9-3 run over the last 3:15 of the half.
Larribas scored all seven of her points in the first half for the Hilltoppers, finishing behind only 6-foot freshman Hayley Each, who had eight points to lead the team.
But, along with Fenske’s big night, the Hilltoppers struggled hanging on to the ball. The Hilltoppers committed 25 turnovers Thursday, 16 in the first half.
Despite the turnovers, Los Alamos outscored Volcano Vista 17-12 in the second quarter to pull within a bucket at the break.
But Fenske, a 5-6 junior guard who has started for the Hawks (5-1) since her freshman year, came out immediately in the third quarter and dropped in seven points to take the momentum away from the Hilltoppers.
Los Alamos went into Thursday’s contest off its first win of the season, a 42-31 victory over the Moriarty Pintos Saturday night.
Following this tournament, which continues through Saturday at Academy, Los Alamos goes on a three-game road swing to the Four Corners area to face Piedra Vista, Aztec and the No. 1 rated Class AAAA team in the state,
the Kirtland Central Broncos.