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SANTA FE In less than one quarter, the Los Alamos Hilltopper girls varsity basketball team very nearly made up for everything it failed to do in the previous three-plus quarters.
Los Alamos had its worst offensive output of the season for the bulk of Wednesday nights game against the St. Michaels Horsemen, but because of a strong defensive effort, wasnt out of a ballgame in which it didnt reach double-digit scoring in any of the first three periods.
In the fourth quarter, however, the Hilltoppers would nearly double their offensive output for the game, making a dreary affair interesting. But a 12-point gap would be too much to return from as the Hilltoppers dropped Wednesdays contest to the Horsemen 38-34.
Neither team was sharp in Wednesdays game, which was originally scheduled for Monday but rescheduled due to Mondays snowstorm.
The two teams struggled to generate much offense in the first half Los Alamos couldnt crack a swarming St. Mikes defense in the paint, while St. Mikes found every shot heavily contested.
But St. Michaels, a much smaller team than Los Alamos, held a wide rebounding edge through the first three quarters and thrived off of second-chance points.
We flat-out didnt rebound, Los Alamos head coach Gerry Washburn said. We didnt have trouble rebounding, we just didnt do it.
The Horsemen would finish the game with 12 second-chance points.
Los Alamos, which didnt score until a putback by Taylor Ealey midway through the quarter, never led in the game.
However, the Hilltopper defense kept the squad in the ballgame by forcing 18 Horsemen turnovers, including four in a critical stretch late in the second quarter when the Horsemen were threatening to break the game wide open.
Wednesdays defensive effort was spearheaded by two players off the bench, Keyla Tumas and Sarah Worland.
Tumas, who has been a critical non-statistical contributor for the Hilltoppers so far this season, played solid match-up defense against the quick St. Michaels guards.
Worland, for her part, turned in the best defensive performance of the evening for anyone on either side of the ball. Worland, who stands only 5-foot-6, turned away three drives to the basket by St. Michaels top offensive weapon Marissa Peterson.
Worlands stops under the basket two of which ultimately resulted in turnovers kept the point differential manageable.
Los Alamos would fall behind 30-18 early in the fourth quarter, with St. Mikes Tamara Quintana scoring on a putback.
Only after that bucket did Los Alamos start showing some signs of offensive life.
Sarah Ethridge, who, like virtually all of the Topper squad had a quiet first three quarters, drilled a 3-pointer to get the comeback attempt rolling.
Bryanna Richins, who was also struggling throughout the game, scored all six of her points during the comeback attempt.
With 23 seconds remaining, Tumas scored and was fouled going up for a layup on a fast break opportunity to cut the lead to four Los Alamos hadnt been that close since the opening minutes of the game then the Los Alamos defense forced a turnover under the St. Mikes basket.
The Toppers wouldnt get another shot off in the contest, however.
Ealey, coming off a career-high 27 points Friday against Santa Fe, finished with 11 to lead the Hilltoppers (7-6). Tyree Richins, who was the only other Hilltopper to score in the first half, finished with 8.
Richins had some success in the first half driving straight through the teeth of St. Mikes swarming 2-3 zone. In the third quarter when the Horsemen gave her some space, she buried a 3-pointer, one of only two Topper field goals in the frame.
Peterson had 13 points to lead St. Michaels (11-1). Kayla Herrera added 9 points and Quintana finished with 7 coming off the bench.
Wednesdays loss snapped a three-game win streak for the Toppers, their longest win streak of the season so far.