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The playoffs, for all intents and purposes, started Thursday for the Los Alamos Hilltopper girls basketball team.
And what the Hilltoppers saw Thursday is what they’re probably going to see for the balance of their 2010-11 season.
Los Alamos struggled with the trapping pressure of the Bernalillo Spartans for much of Thursday’s District 2AAAA tournament semifinal game. However, Los Alamos made some big buckets in crunch time to pull away late and upend Bernalillo 44-31.
The victory puts the Hilltoppers into the 2AAAA championship for the eighth consecutive season. They will face the Española Valley Sundevils, the two-time defending district champs, Saturday in the valley.
In order to knock off the Sundevils, however, the Hilltoppers will have to take much better care of the ball than they did Thursday.
Los Alamos coughed up the ball 26 times against Bernalillo, many of those turnovers being of the unforced variety, something that didn’t sit very well with head coach Tarah Logan.
“There was a little bit of nerves here (Thursday),” Logan said. “Bernalillo was coming on strong. It’s hard to beat a team three times…Saturday’s game is going to be a different story. We can’t have those lapses against Española Valley. They will eat us alive.”
Española Valley, the No. 4 team in the state, is among the best teams in the state in forcing turnovers and converting those into quick points on the other end.
Thursday’s win, however, could well have sealed a spot for Los Alamos (13-13 overall, 7-2 in 2AAAA) in the Class 4A playoffs. While only a victory Saturday would guarantee a berth in the playoffs, Los Alamos picked up its 10th win of the season over a Class 4A team, a figure that should nail down an at-large bid.
Bernalillo’s season probably ended with the loss. Bernalillo came into the game off convincing upset victories on the road against both Capital and Santa Fe to make the district semifinal.
Then, against Los Alamos, Bernalillo survived a bubble-bursting first quarter, which started with a Los Alamos 9-0 run, to battle back.
Los Alamos led by as many as 10 points midway through the third quarter before Bernalillo put together a 13-4 run extending into the early part of the fourth quarter, slicing the lead down to just one. Following Janalee Pacheco’s stop-and-pop jumper from 10 feet out to put the Spartans within a point, Los Alamos promptly turned the ball over at midcourt. The Spartans (8-20, 3-8), however, missed a golden opportunity to take the lead, however, misfiring on a routine putback attempt.
Hilltopper 6-foot freshman center, Hayley Each, who towered over her opponents, put together perhaps the best game of her young career, highlighted by a 3-point play with 4:12 remaining that would mark the end of the Spartans’ rally.
Each, who has only recently started putting the ball on the floor and driving into the lane on a regular basis, used that attack on several occasions against Bernalillo, who could do little to stop her.
Each finished with a game-high 14 points, including the big 3-point play to put the Hilltoppers back up 33-27. She also had a team-high seven rebounds.
Los Alamos’ Kamille Chavez, the only other player Thursday in double-figures, buried a 3-pointer from the left corner with 3:34 remaining to up the Hilltopper edge to nine, effectively taking the wind out of Bernalillo’s sails. Chavez finished with 11 points, hitting the only two 3-pointers of the game and going 5 of 6 from the foul line.
Los Alamos point guard Tina Radosevich finished with eight points and six rebounds.
Contreta Endwarrior finished with eight to lead Bernalillo.
Los Alamos 44, Bernalillo 31
Bernalillo 3 8 12 8—31
Los Alamos 10 8 8 18—44
Bernalillo — Contreta Endwarrior 2-10 4-7 8, Marissa Valencia 0-8 0-0 0, Katie Darnell 2-8 0-0 4, Cedar-Rain Yellowmule 1-3 0-0 2, Victoria Lovato 1-3 1-2 3, Janalee Pacheco1-3 0-0 2, Taylor Darnell 2-6 1-2 5, Askia McCulley 0-0 0-0 0, Ariel Archuleta 2-4 1-3 5, Olivia Layden 1-1 0-0 2, Lorissa Montoya 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 12-47 7-14 31.
Los Alamos — Hayley Each 4-12 6-7 14, Kamille Chavez 2-5 5-6 11, Erin Kirk 2-4 0-0 4, Tina Radosevich 2-5 4-8 8, McKenzie Logan 1-3 0-0 2, Madison Ahlers 1-2 1-2 3, Marissa Higdon 1-2 0-0 2, Monika Teter 1-2 0-0 2, Christine Larribas 0-1 0-0 0, Anna Scott 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 13-37 16-23 44.
3-point goals — Bern. 0-10 (Valencia 0-6, K. Darnell 0-2, Endwarrior 0-1, McCulley 0-1), LA 2-8 (Chavez 2-4, Kirk 0-2, Radosevich 0-1, Logan 0-1). Total fouls — Bern. 16, LA 18. Fouled out — None. Technicals — None.