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The problems the Los Alamos Hilltopper girls basketball team needed to fix to keep pace with one of the top programs in the state didn’t get fixed Wednesday night.
For its previous two games, Los Alamos struggled keeping a handle on the ball and varying up its offense from an almost complete inside shooting game. Los Alamos knew full well going into Wednesday’s contest it would need to do both.
Unfortunately for the Hilltoppers, they weren’t able to accomplish either.
Meanwhile, the Kirtland Central Broncos, perennial state title contenders and the No. 1-ranked team in Class 4A, showed why it’s the No. 1 team, getting four players into double-figures – none of them playing much more than three quarters – as they won in a rout, 64-29 at Griffith Gymnasium.
Historically, the match-up between the Hilltoppers and Broncos hasn’t been a good one for Los Alamos. The Broncos’ aggressive, attacking style of play seems to give the Hilltoppers fits year in and year out.
“Traditionally, that’s been there for a long time,” Kirtland Central head coach Kevin Holman said. “They preach basketball to these girls, they work them hard, the youth programs are excellent. We work them hard in practice, where playing games are their reward.”
Los Alamos, meanwhile, continued to struggle with turnovers, as it did all weekend against two other Four Corners-area opponents, Piedra Vista and Aztec.
Against Kirtland Central (8-1), Los Alamos gave the ball away 34 times, 21 times in the first half.
While the Broncos had 18 steals in the game – five by its top player, Kalen Henderson – Los Alamos head coach Tarah Logan said the Hilltoppers’ passing in recent games has been decidedly subpar.
“I was really disappointed with it,” said Logan. “The majority of those turnovers were bad passes. Those take two people, the passer and the receiver. There’s still a lot of new stuff with new people running the point and we’re still seeing who’s going to be running the point for us.”
If there was a silver lining for the Hilltoppers (5-5), they were able to get into their half-court offensive sets for a good portion of the game, something they needed to do to have any kind of shot at winning. However, the perimeter defense of the Broncos was more than up to the task, limiting the Hilltoppers to just four 3-point attempts in the game, none of which the Hilltoppers sank.
On the other end, the Broncos bombarded the Hilltoppers with 3-pointers – Henderson, who played only sparingly in the second half, connected three times from long range, as did Taylor Henderson.
Perhaps most alarming for the other Class 4A teams in the state, the Broncos also have an inside presence this year, making them that much more difficult to guard. Tessa Begay is listed at 6-foot-1 and Taylor Yazzie, who was a foul magnet Wednesday night and scored 10 points coming off the bench, is 5-foot-11.
Los Alamos got another solid performance from McKenzie Logan, who finished with 11 points. Logan was the only Los Alamos guard who was able to get consistent penetration against Kirtland Central and get inside for a few easy buckets.
Also Wednesday, Monika Teter finished with eight points and was the only Hilltopper to score in the second quarter as Kirtland Central moved out to a 34-12 lead at the half.
Kalen Henderson led all scorers with her 15 points and Taylor Henderson added 13.
Logan said Los Alamos’ guards need to be ready for plenty more full-court pressure, which will come from the likes of Roswell in the first round of next week’s Roswell Holiday Classic, and of course from District 2-4A rival Española Valley.