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Girls basketball: LA holds on to drop Bernalillo, 51-44

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By Mike Cote

It’s a pretty good bet that the Bernalillo Spartans are going to be shooting free throws in practice today.In Tuesday’s District 2AAAA girls basketball game at Griffith Gym, the Spartans misfired on 16 of 22 attempts from the foul line and lost by seven points to district-leading Los Alamos.Los Alamos’ big girls once again posted double-figure point totals Tuesday to lead the Hilltoppers to a 51-44 win.The win put the Hilltoppers at 4-0 in the 2AAAA girls basketball race with four games left to play. With two home games left, the ‘Toppers (12-9 overall) will very likely need no more than two wins to clinch the regular season title and a berth in the state AAAA tournament, and a win Friday at Taos would go a long way to assuring a regular season district title.On Friday, however, Los Alamos probably won’t be able to afford the kind of showing it had Tuesday against the basement-dwelling Spartans (5-16 overall, 0-4 in 2AAAA).Los Alamos managed just seven points in the first quarter of Tuesday’s game, hitting just two field goals in the opening quarter.Bernalillo jumped out to a 13-7 lead after the first eight minutes, but Los Alamos would erase that lead less than 1:20 in to the second quarter with a pair of field goals from guard Sarah Ethridge, her jumper that banked off the glass tied the score at 13.The Hilltoppers would roll from then on, amassing a 20-point lead early in the fourth quarter before the Spartans rallied to cut the score to seven points at 2:09 mark.“We got into goofy mode in that fourth quarter,” Los Alamos head coach Gerry Washburn said. “We were up by 20 and we thought we’d give the bench a little more playing time than we usually do. I probably put too many of them in too fast.”The Spartans scored 21 points in the fourth quarter, nearly doubling their output for the other three quarters. However, the Spartans went just 2-for-13 in the second half from the free throw line, 0-for-6 in the third quarter when the Hilltoppers started to take command.Despite the fourth quarter comeback push by the Spartans, Washburn said he never thought his team was in any danger of losing the lead.After falling behind in the first quarter, Los Alamos posted 18 points in the second quarter and held Bernalillo to just three points. It took Bernalillo nearly two-and-a-half minutes to score a bucket in the third quarter.Ethridge finished with 12 points, converting all five of her field goal attempts. Taylor Ealey once again paced the Los Alamos offensive effort with 17 points, and Bryanna Richins added 15 more, five of those coming off the offensive boards.Under the right conditions, Los Alamos could clinch no worse than second place with a win Friday.“We need to handle the next two games,” Washburn said. “That game Friday is very important. We win that game, we’ll have won all games except one on the road. We want to be able to do that and see what happens.”Los Alamos has already beaten Capital and Española Valley on the road.