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Bouncing back from a disappointing loss Saturday, the Los Alamos Hilltopper girls basketball team posted a big defensive showing Tuesday night.
Facing a District 2AAAA opponent, the Capital Jaguars, that was in desperate need of a win, Los Alamos allowed a total of just four field goals in the second and third quarters Tuesday at Griffith Gymnasium, then made one of its best offensive pushes of the season to take a 56-35 victory.
With the win, Los Alamos wrapped up the first half of the 2AAAA season with a district record of 3-1 and a solid hold on second place and two favorable district match-ups scheduled in the next 10 days.
It was a big victory for the Hilltoppers (13-8 overall), not only to keep pace with the district-leading Española Valley Sundevils but to get back on track after losing two of its last three contests, including Saturday night’s loss at Española Valley.
Los Alamos forward Shelby Courtright said it was important that the team move on as soon as possible from Saturday’s loss.
“We really can’t think about that,” said Courtright, who finished Tuesday’s contest with 9 points. “It happened in the past. We can only learn from it. We wanted to come here (Tuesday) and show Capital what L.A. basketball is all about. (Saturday was) disappointing, but we gave them a good run for their money. It’s going to be a tough road to a district title.”
Los Alamos dug itself a big early hole Saturday against the Sundevils, but cut the lead down to just 1 point midway through the fourth quarter before the Sundevils, keyed by point guard Nisa Duran, went on an 11-0 run to close the contest out.
Capital (8-8 overall, 1-1 in 2AAAA) hung with Los Alamos throughout the first half and actually held a couple of short-lived leads late in the first and second quarters.
The Jaguars, who haven’t played Española Valley yet — their scheduled game with them Jan. 19 was postponed due to weather — was hoping to steal one at Griffith Gym Tuesday before their meeting with the Sundevils.
While Los Alamos’ defense was solid throughout the game except for a desperation-time push by Capital in the fourth quarter, Los Alamos’ offense couldn’t find enough rhythm to start pulling away until late in the third quarter. Only a 3-pointer with :23 remaining in the first half by guard Tyree Richins kept the Jaguars from holding a slim lead heading into the locker room.
Richins had a big showing for the Hilltoppers Tuesday, that despite sitting out a good portion of the second half with foul trouble. Richins connected on 7 of her game-high 15 points in the final quarter as Los Alamos slammed the door on Capital’s upset bid.
She was 3 of 6 from beyond the 3-point circle offensively, while defensively in the first quarter she picked up 3 steals as Capital turned the ball over 8 times.
For the game, Los Alamos forced 18 Capital turnovers while turning the ball over just 10 times itself and just 3 times in the second half.
“The big factor was we kept our composure,” Courtright said of Tuesday’s victory. “We got the ball and worked it up the court. We were running the ball anyway we wanted to run it.”
Los Alamos held Capital to just 3 points in the third quarter, although it managed just 9 points during the same frame. Capital got just 2 shot attempts off in the first 5 minutes of the quarter.
With the Jaguars down 31-23 heading into the fourth quarter, they put together a good initial fourth quarter push on their offensive end.
Concurrently, however, Los Alamos put together its best offensive showing of the game and didn’t allow Capital to slice into the lead much.
Tina Radosevich had another solid performance coming off the bench Tuesday, finishing with 7 points. Early in the fourth quarter, Radosevich converted an old-fashioned 3-point play to give Los Alamos its first double-digit lead of the night.
The Hilltoppers outscored the Jaguars 25-12 in the final period after the Jagaurs’ early quarter push fizzled out.
Neither team shot particularly well Tuesday, with Los Alamos going 18-for-49 (36.7 percent) and Capital converting just 14 of 42 from the floor (33.3 percent).
Los Alamos’ struggles from the free throw line that hurt it Saturday against Española Valley continued Tuesday. It made just 14 of 25 attempts on the night, although it was 10 of 16 in the second half.
With its next two games scheduled against district opponents Taos and Bernalillo, neither of which gave Los Alamos much trouble in the their first meetings, Los Alamos can keep the heat on Española Valley for the top of the district standings.
The Hilltoppers have won 8 of their last 10 games and are now 11-4 on the season in games against Class AAAA opponents.