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Girls basketball: Toppers look to build on 1st win

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By Mike Cote

If the Los Alamos Hilltopper girls basketball team garnered any momentum last weekend, it may need it immediately heading into this weekend.

The Hilltoppers grabbed their first win of the season Saturday against the Moriarty Pintos on the road. Their season continues Thursday in their opening round game of the Joe Armijo Invitational.

The Joe Armijo Invitational is hosted by the Albuquerque Academy Chargers. It includes eight teams from, mostly from the Albuquerque area, although Las Cruces High School and Montwood High School of El Paso, Texas, will also take part.

Thursday, the Hilltoppers will open the tournament against a tough Class 5A opponent, the Sandia Matadors.

Sandia is among the top 5A schools in the state right now, having posted a record of 4-1 so far. Sandia has handed Cibola its only two losses of the season and received its sole season loss at the hands of 5A powerhouse Eldorado, 51-45 Saturday night.

Meanwhile, Los Alamos (1-2) earned its first victory over Moriarty, taking a 38-29 decision on the road.

The Hilltoppers put forth their best defensive effort of the season to post their first win. However, the game was also the Hilltoppers’ best offensive effort of the season as well. The Hilltoppers have now scored just 104 points in three games (a 34.7-point average).

Los Alamos head coach Tarah Logan said she was pleased with Saturday’s effort. “It all came down to just finally settling down,” she said.

The best news coming out of the win for Los Alamos was it came in its first game of the season against a Class AAAA opponent — in-classification games are weighed much more heavily than out-of-classification games when postseason selections are made. Los Alamos lost to Class AAA teams Pojoaque and St. Michael’s in its first two season games.

The Hilltoppers will face the Matadors in the opening game of the Armijo Invitational girls tournament.

The Matadors not only sport plenty of size — they have eight players listed at 5-foot-9 or above and two players north of 6 feet — and experience, they also play solid defense. Only one of their opponents has scored more than 43 points this season, while Class 5A Rio Grande was held to just 14 points.

The winner of Thursday afternoon’s game will face either St. Pius, the defending AAAA champion, or Valley Friday afternoon.

St. Pius’ Sartans (2-2) have had a bumpy start to their season, but have already knocked off two teams in the tournament, Hope Christian and Academy.

On the opposite side of the bracket, Las Cruces has rolled to a 5-0 start to its season, although it has mostly faced El Paso-area schools so far.

Here is the schedule for the Joe Armijo Invitational. All games will be played in the Academy West Gymnasium except where noted.

Thursday

Sandia vs. Los Alamos, 1 p.m.

St. Pius X vs. Valley, 2:45 p.m.

Albuquerque Academy vs. Montwood, Texas, 5:15 p.m.

Hope Christian vs. Las Cruces, 7 p.m.

Friday

Sandia-Los Alamos loser vs. St. Pius-Valley loser, 1 p.m.

Academy-Montwood loser vs. Hope Christian-Las Cruces loser, 2:45 p.m.

Sandia-Los Alamos winner vs. St. Pius-Valley winner, 5:15 p.m.

Academy-Montwood winner vs. Hope Christian-Las Cruces winner, 7 p.m.

Saturday

Seventh-place game, 2:45 p.m.

Fifth-place game, 5:15 p.m.

Third-place game, Academy East Gymnasium, 1 p.m.

Championship game, Academy East Gymnasium, 5:15 p.m.