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Girls basketball: LA falls to Hanks in Hoop-la opener

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By Mike Cote

Gerry Washburn liked most of what he saw out of his team in Thursday’s game, except, perhaps, the final score.Washburn, the head coach of the Los Alamos Hilltopper girls varsity basketball team, said his troops were able to crack El Paso Hanks’ defense early in the ballgame, forcing them to switch tactics. The ’Toppers were able to get into the basket virtually the entire game.Unfortunately, the ’Toppers again had trouble finishing once again, missing several close-range shots, especially during the early part of the game when they were getting the ball through the Hanks defense, in a 45-42 loss.The game was part of the Memorial Medical Center Holiday Hoop-la being held at New Mexico State University in Las Cruces.“They tried to play man-to-man on us, but we got to the rim five times in a row,” Washburn said. “We forced them to play zone.”Los Alamos trailed by as many as 11 points in the fourth quarter, but staged a late comeback to get within striking distance before time expired.Because of the loss, Los Alamos was scheduled to play El Paso Andress today, 70-42 losers to Las Cruces High (5-4), at 9 a.m., something the team wasn’t looking forward to because it left the Hill at around 5 a.m. Thursday to make it down to Las Cruces for its noon ballgame.Bryanna Richins finished with 14 points to lead the Hilltoppers. Sarah Ethridge added 12 more.The loss put the ’Toppers at 4-5, the first time they’ve dropped below the .500 mark in the 2007-08 season. Thursday’s loss was their third straight.Washburn said he hasn’t seen anything his team has been doing that has set off any alarms in his head.“The next step is learning how to win,” he said. “We had chances to win (Thursday), we just didn’t do it. We walked away feeling like we were better than Hanks.”The tournament continues through Saturday at the Pan American Center in Las Cruces. Washburn said he’d like to earn wins today and Saturday.“There’s a lot more positives coming out than negatives,” he said. “We need to win a couple of games, learn how to win and get on a roll going into district.”The District 2AAAA season starts Jan. 22 for the Hilltoppers.Washburn got to scout Andress following his game Thursday and said Andress’ Eagles like to play man-to-man defense. The Eagles have some size and the two teams should be well matched in the paint.