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Girls basketball: LA upends Santa Fe on road, 59-34

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By Mike Cote

SANTA FE — On paper, the game-plan for the Los Alamos Hilltopper girls varsity basketball team is a pretty simple one.But if Los Alamos can continue playing like it has for the past three games, stopping said game-plan is going to be a pretty tall order.Los Alamos has made no bones about wanting to pound the ball inside on its opponents this season and did so about as well as it had done all season Friday night.Only a rough spot in the early portion of the fourth quarter, when the Santa Fe Demons cut into a 20-point Hilltopper lead, kept the game from being a total walk. But the ’Toppers went on a 15-3 run to close out Friday’s game with a 59-34 win at Toby Roybal Memorial Gymnasium.Sophomore post Taylor Ealey didn’t waste much time breaking her own career best game. After scoring a career-high 24 points a week earlier at the Las Cruces Holiday Hoop-la, Ealey knocked in 27 Friday night.Ealey said her big night was made possible by her team being able to run its offense effectively. When the offense was running smoothly, good things were happening, but when the offense lost its focus, it struggled.“We’re still sometimes getting a little too quick on our plays,” Ealey said. “Once we slowed down in the first half, we were pretty consistent with our scoring.”Los Alamos broke the game open in the top half, dominating the offensive frontcourt, a task made easier with Santa Fe’s 6-2 center Jacqueline Bartleson out with an ankle injury.Ealey and junior post Bryanna Richins gave the Demons fits in the low post, with Ealey’s first half stats reading like a pretty good full game stat line: 15 points, six offensive rebounds, four steals and a blocked shot.Los Alamos head coach Gerry Washburn said things were running so smoothly on Friday he doubted even Bartleson’s presence would’ve made an enormous difference.“A lot of the plays Taylor scored on, I don’t think (Bartleson) would’ve been a factor, anyway,” Washburn said. “She wouldn’t have been running the floor with Taylor like that.”Richins did plenty of damage in the first half as well, chipping in 9 points and grabbing four offensive boards which translated directly into 7 Hilltopper points.Richins finished with 20 points on 9 of 14 shooting and had 10 rebounds, eight on the offensive glass. Her performance Friday followed up three straight double-figure tournament games in Las Cruces.Los Alamos threatened to turn the game into a rout after just one quarter of play, knocking in its first three shots from the floor and forcing five Demon turnovers. But the turnover bug bit Los Alamos hard in the first quarter as well, as the team coughed up the ball eight times in the period.The ’Toppers managed to force 13 Demon turnovers in the first half, however, playing solid team defense throughout the night. The Demons managed just two field goals in the first quarter, netting just 7 points.Midway through the third quarter, leading by 20, Washburn elected to empty his bench. While the bench players allowed just a pair of field goals in three-and-a-half minutes of work, they managed to get just one shot off during that time.Los Alamos was still maintaining a comfortable 16-point lead heading into the fourth quarter when its starters returned to the game. Santa Fe’s Dominique Vigil-Lovato started to get hot, however, hitting five straight shots to pare the lead down. With 6:21 remaining in regulation, Clarissa Garcia nailed a 3-pointer to put the Demons within 11 points.That would be the last hurrah for the Demons (6-7), however, as Ealey and Richins would combine for 15 points in the final period to slam the door.Los Alamos (7-5) will open District 2AAAA play in just over two weeks and wanted to get some momentum heading in. With three straight wins, the team appears to be on the right track.“If we can keep our offense at that patient level, I think we’re ready for district,” Ealey said.Los Alamos will play St. Michael’s Monday in Santa Fe. That game was rescheduled due to a conflict.