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ESPAÑOLA – Despite just being named the Co-Player of the Year in District 2AAAA, it was hard for Taylor Ealey to hide the frustration of Friday’s loss.
One of Los Alamos’ most notable athletes of the last few years, Ealey walked off the court Friday night shaking her head as the Hilltoppers fell in their final chance to reclaim the girls basketball District 2AAAA title from the Española Valley Sundevils.
Los Alamos made a push late in the first half to take a 1-point lead with 27.8 seconds to go, thanks to Ealey’s drive into the lane for a layup, but that was countered just before the buzzer by Española Valley’s Desiree Howie, giving her team the lead back heading into the locker room.
That would be Los Alamos’ only lead of the game and the last time it would threaten Española Valley Friday night. The Sundevils dominated the second half, winning 54-38 and taking their second straight district tournament title.
“They had two really good shots,” Ealey said of the start of the third quarter. “They’ve got a good shooter. Jenny (Tumas) played good defense on her but they managed a switch on that side.”
To start the second half, Española Valley’s Melanie Vigil started bombing from the perimeter, hitting two 3-pointers and getting fouled on the second. Vigil’s 9 points in the quarter, along with Justine Vigil’s 3 at the quarter’s 3:37 mark, gave Española Valley its biggest lead of the game at the time, 14 points. Ealey buried a 3-pointer of her own with time winding down, but Los Alamos would never get the lead back down under double-digits.
Ealey, who finished with a game-high 16 points, was named the top player in 2AAAA this season along with Española Valley’s Nisa Duran. Duran, who had a relatively quiet game Friday – she averages around 18 per game but finished with only 10 – was the recipient of the Player of the Year award in 2008-09.
But the Vigils combined for 23 points and Lauren Quintana finished with 6 coming off the bench for the Sundevils to help post the victory and the district championship.
Despite losing both the tournament and regular season district titles to the Sundevils, the Hilltoppers (19-10) are a virtual lock to get an at-large bid into the state playoffs – the field of which will be announced live at noon today at nmaafilms.tv.
Los Alamos head coach Tarah Logan, who was named the 2AAAA Coach of the Year following Friday’s game, thinks her team could be a top 5 seed when the Class AAAA brackets and schedules are announced.
Logan said there will be plenty for the Hilltoppers to work on this week before Friday’s girls first round.
“Lots of shooting,” Logan said. “Lots of work on offense. We’ll see a lot of pressing at state. That’s what Roswell did to us when we played them.”
The Hilltoppers struggled from the floor Friday despite going into the game off a hot shooting night versus Taos a day earlier. They managed just 14 field goals in 50 attempts Friday and connected on only 6 buckets in the second half.
Logan said she also wants to bring up some Hilltopper alumni this week to help bang on her forwards down low, as they will likely see plenty of that as well during the playoffs.
Following Ealey, Los Alamos forward Shelby Courtright finished with 10 points.