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Girls basketball: Toppers claim 3rd straight 2-4A title

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By Mike Cote

If, by chance, there were any lingering questions about Los Alamos’ dominance in District 2AAAA girls basketball this season, the Hilltoppers answered them emphatically Friday.Los Alamos grabbed control of the District 2AAAA tournament championship game early in the first quarter and never let go, thumping the Española Valley Sundevils 64-45 to claim its third straight district crown.With the win, Los Alamos reached its primary goal of winning the district and its secondary goal of running the table in district. The Hilltoppers won all eight of their regular season 2AAAA dates, which qualified them to play for the 2AAAA title Friday at Griffith Gymnasium.Even though Hilltopper head coach Gerry Washburn said throughout the season he thought his team would be a force come playoff time, even he said he’s been most impressed with his young team’s progress.“It was a pleasure to watch them (Thursday) in practice,” Washburn said. “I wish I had a tape of the first three days of practice and a tape of them today. You can really see the difference.”Los Alamos never trailed in Friday’s game. Its defense forced the Sundevils into taking several off-balance shots and took away the Sundevil inside game.For the bulk of Friday’s contest, Española Valley had to launch from the outside, although it hasn’t shown any squeamishness about doing so this season.With 5:46 remaining in the second quarter, Española Valley’s Megan Martinez nailed a 3-pointer to cut the Hilltopper advantage to six points. Española Valley would never be that close again.The Sundevils could simply not contain Los Alamos post player Taylor Ealey, one of Washburn’s seven sophomores, who has emerged as one of the district’s elite players this season.Ealey ripped apart Española Valley’s interior defense, particularly in the first half, scoring 20 points on 9 of 15 shooting from the floor.On the opposite side of the key, junior Bryanna Richins, who has feasted on Española Valley’s smaller lineup all season, knocked in 12 points on 6 of 9 shooting.Ealey, Richins and Sarah Ethridge, one of only two seniors on the squad, were named to the All-District 2AAAA squad following the game. Point guard Tyree Richins was given a second team All-District nod.Tyree Richins, another sophomore, said she didn’t expect the honor, but that it was a sign of how far the Hilltoppers had come.“We’re at the peak of our game,” Richins said. “We’re getting better and better.”Of most concern to any opponents Los Alamos might face in the upcoming AAAA playoffs is the fact Los Alamos hit its outside shots Friday, something which has been spotty for much of the season, although Los Alamos has been far more concerned about its offensive performance in the paint.Richins hit one of three 3-pointers Friday, along with Ealey and Kayci Harmon. In all, nine Hilltoppers broke into the scoring column in the 2AAAA title game.Ethridge finished with 10 points, eight in the second half, despite battling foul trouble most of the evening. Harmon had six and Sarah Worland added five coming off the bench.Martinez, who was named the 2AAAA Player of the Year, led the Sundevils with 19 points.Los Alamos will find out this afternoon what team it will face in the first round of the AAAA tournament.Washburn, who said he won’t watch this afternoon’s webcast — he was aggravated with the sixth-seed he received last year — thought with Moriarty’s stunning loss to Del Norte in the District 5AAAA tournament, that Los Alamos might have a legitimate argument to get a three seed.