Girls basketball: LA drops opener to Pojoaque Saturday

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By Mike Cote

JACONA — It was definitely the first game of the season for both the Los Alamos Hilltoppers and Pojoaque Elks Saturday afternoon.


But the Elks, with their signature pressure defense, were able to hold on to a slim fourth quarter lead Saturday and take a 41-36 girls basketball victory at Ben Lujan Gymnasium.

Despite fast, frenetic action on both sides of the court, the teams combined to hit just 23 field goals in the contest.

While Los Alamos head coach Tarah Logan said she was pleased with the defensive effort against one of the premier Class AAA programs in the state, the low point production made her grimace after her team’s 2009-10 season opener.

“Our shooting was not good,” she said. “We took some outside shots. I was really happy with that, but those shots have got to fall. This is a good team and Pojoaque’s a good team. We’ll be alright.”

Shooting was an issue for Los Alamos throughout the 2008-09 season and is perhaps the biggest question mark for the Hilltoppers going into the new season.

Los Alamos is well aware that it will have to do much better down the stretch than its 9-for-30 (30.0 percent) performance from the floor Saturday. While Pojoaque, the two-time defending Class AAA champion, didn’t shoot remarkably better with its 14-for-43 showing (32.6 percent), it was able to earn several second chances and, more importantly, force Los Alamos into 30 turnovers.

The Hilltoppers (0-1) actually held the lead for much of Saturday’s contest — Pojoaque didn’t earn its first lead of the ballgame until the 1:14 mark of the first half — but they managed just one field goal in the second quarter, that after hitting just two shots in the opening quarter.

Los Alamos led by as many as eight points early in the second quarter, with point guard Tyree Richins beating the Pojoaque press down the court for an easy layup.

Richins, a preseason All-State honoree, finished with 12 points, six in each half.

This season, Los Alamos will be looking to Richins and forward Taylor Ealey for guidance, and both had solid performances Saturday.

Ealey, the Hilltoppers’ primary offensive weapon in the frontcourt, dropped in a game-high 14 points. Her back door cut from three-quarter court into the paint tied the game at 30 with 5:23 remaining.

While that bucket seemed to shift the momentum in favor of the Hilltoppers in the fourth quarter — they took a brief 34-33 lead just after the halfway mark — Pojoaque took advantage of some costly turnovers late in the fourth quarter.

Los Alamos coughed up the ball nine times in the final period, getting off just six field goal attempts and making just two.

Los Alamos’ free throw shooting kept it in the game much of the way, however, as it hit 17 of its 26 attempts.

Sarah Worland had seven points for the Hilltoppers, but no other player finished with more than two.

For the Elks, Saturday’s victory was their 36th-straight win. They haven’t dropped a game since about the halfway point of the 2007-2008 season under head coach Lanse Carter.

Pojoaque’s Dionna Montoya, a veteran on those Elk championship squads, had six steals in the game and five assists, many of those equating into big transition buckets down the stretch.

The Elks featured a balanced scoring attack Saturday, with all eight of their players who appeared in the game scoring at least two points.

Marissa Romero finished with 11 and Kiana Vigil had nine to lead Pojoaque’s offensive effort.

Los Alamos, which features one of the taller lineups in AAAA this season, was hoping to be able to use its height advantage better against the smaller Pojoaque squad, but the turnovers and Pojoaque’s defense made that difficult.

Even Ealey’s touches in the paint were limited.

Logan said low-post production is going to have to improve.

“Shelby Courtright had a rough game (Saturday),” Logan said, talking about the 5-foot-10 senior on the opposite side of the lane to Ealey. “She’s going to have to be one of our big producers.”

Los Alamos will take on another solid Class AAA team in its home opener Thursday. It will face St. Michael’s at Griffith Gymnasium.