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SANTA FE Gerry Washburn made no bones about it. Jeremy Newton threw him a curve ball.
I take full responsibility for the first quarter, Washburn, head coach of the Los Alamos Hilltopper girls varsity basketball team, said after Wednesdays game against Capital. They had a good game plan. I didnt expect them to press us...theyd probably been practicing the press all season and waited for the right time to roll it out.
Capitals full-court pressure may have come as a bit of a surprise, but the Hilltoppers only needed one quarter to adjust.
Hilltopper two-guard Sarah Ethridge, who dropped down into the low post several times in the second half, paced three Los Alamos players in double-figures with 21 points as the Toppers earned a 60-46 win at Edward Ortiz Gymnasium.
Wednesday nights win firmly buckled Los Alamos in the drivers seat in the District 2AAAA regular season title race. That district win was the third for Los Alamos in as many tries, and the second district win on the road for the squad.
However, no one around the Hilltopper squad is ready to start celebrating just yet.
Theres a long way to go, team captain Ethridge said. We have to take it one game at a time.
After the struggles in the first quarter, in which Los Alamos managed just seven points and turned the ball over six times, the game was all Hilltoppers.
The Los Alamos defense came up huge Wednesday, limiting one of the most prolific scorers in 2AAAA, Capitals Brandy Montoya, to just one field goal and nine points in the contest.
It was awesome, Ethridge said of Los Alamos team defense. We kept (Montoya) under double-digits. That was really good on our part.
Montoya, who has scored 40 points in a game this season, was just 1-for-12 from the field Wednesday, her only field goal being a 3-pointer to open the second half. Montoyas 3 didnt do much to spark the Jaguar offense, however, as they managed just five points in the third quarter.
Brandy wasnt going to get 40 points against us, Washburn said. Our game-plan was very simple: keep the ball out of Brandys hands and make others knock down shotsIf their other kids beat us or stay close, thats fine.
But Capital didnt find much in the way of an alternate scorer, although Crystal McDonald finished with 12 and Andrea Ortega had 10. No other Jaguar finished with more than six.
Ethridge, for her part, did hit four straight shots, three in the second quarter and her first shot of the third quarter she also got to the free throw line after her third quarter bucket. She had 13 points in the second half and shot 7 of 12 from the field and 7 of 8 from the free throw line Wednesday.
Because Capital got Los Alamos into a running game in the first half Los Alamos has been much more effective this season in a half-court set Los Alamos defense was scrambling to keep up. Capital had some good looks in the first half, but didnt convert, going 6 of 26 in the opening half.
But the Hilltoppers, who trailed by seven after one quarter and two at the half, blew open the game in the third quarter.
Taylor Ealey, Los Alamos sophomore post who has this season become Los Alamos main scoring threat, dropped in eight of her 20 points in the third quarter, that after scoring seven points in the second quarter.
Capital, whose two tallest players are listed at 5-foot-6 and didnt even get into the game Wednesday, had no counter for either the 5-foot-11 Ealey or the 5-foot-11 Bryanna Richins, in the low post, not to mention the 5-foot-11 Ethridge when she ventured into the paint. Richins added 11 points.
Washburn said theres no secret to how Los Alamos is going to score its points.
If we run our half-court offense, we get it in to our big kids and let them do what they do, he said. Theyll get to the free throw line or theyll put it in the hole.
Wednesdays win put the Hilltoppers at 3-0 in 2AAAA play (11-9 overall). With Espaola Valleys 53-48 win at Bernalillo Wednesday, it and Taos are tied for second with a 1-1 record. Capital (7-14 overall) dropped to 1-2 in the 2AAAA race, while Bernalillo, Los Alamos next 2AAAA opponent, is 0-2.