Girls basketball: Toppers upended by Pintos, 41-25

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By Mike Cote

Should Los Alamos try to find some solace in the six days before its next game, it can look to the fact it played the No. 1 ranked team in the state to a draw in the second half.

The first half, that’s another story.

Moriarty, the top-ranked Class AAAA girls basketball team in the state, held Los Alamos to just 10 first-half points, leading Friday’s game wire-to-wire at Griffith Gymnasium. Though Los Alamos held Moriarty to just 15 points in the second half, it managed just 15 points itself to fall 41-25 in a nondistrict contest.

The Pintos, who in the first half looked as good as they were advertised, put together some outstanding interior passes to convert easy buckets against the Hilltoppers.

While the Hilltoppers will be the taller team on the floor almost every night they step on the floor, the Pintos were able to match them almost inch-for-inch. Led by 5-11 twin sister Brandi and Kristin Valencia, two of the top athletes in the state, the Pintos jumped out to a 15-6 lead after one quarter and a 26-10 edge at the half.

Los Alamos head coach Tarah Logan was displeased with the first half effort Friday night, although she was happier with the second half performance.

“We have the height, we have the skill, but it’s a matter of execution,” Logan said. “It’s a matter of discipline on offense, making good entry passes. I can diagram it 10 times for them, but they have to do it.”

Los Alamos made just three field goals in the first half. That was due, however, in no small part to Moriarty’s stifling defense, particularly in the paint.

Brandi Valencia, who was one of three players to finish with a game-high 12 points, also had four steals in the first quarter.

Moriarty’s defense forced seven Los Alamos turnovers in the first quarter and six more in the second quarter. Los Alamos was able to get just 13 shots off in the first half.

The lone offensive bright spot for the Hilltoppers (1-3) Friday was Bryanna Richins.

Richins, who missed Tuesday’s game and most of Thursday’s game due to a bout of strep throat, finished with 12 points on 5 of 9 shooting against the rock solid Moriarty defense. She had seven of Los Alamos’ first half points, including all three of the teams’ field goals.

As rough as the offensive outing for the Hilltoppers was, the Pintos’ second half wasn’t any better. The Pintos (2-0) hit just five shots from the floor, with both of their third quarter field goals coming with less than 30 seconds remaining.

Sarah Worland, who missed Los Alamos’ first contest of the season against Pojoaque a week earlier, put good pressure in the second half on Moriarty’s guards and forced Kristin Valencia to take some tough shots. Kristin Valencia, who also finished with 12 points, hit on just one of nine attempts in the quarter.

The Pintos’ second half showing didn’t sit well with head coach Joe Bailey.

“The second half was a little frustrating,” Bailey said after the game. “I thought we had shots, but they didn’t go. I’m disappointed with our offensive production in the second half.”

Bailey, who in the first coaches’ poll of the season voted defending state champion St. Pius X as the No. 1 team, said he has a tough road ahead in both his nondistrict and district seasons. Being the top team in the state just gives the Pintos another target on their backs.

Following Richins’ 12 points, no other Hilltopper finished with more than four.

Jordan Russell had nine points for Moriarty.

Logan said she thought her team should try to relax this weekend, while they would start preparing for the Albuquerque Academy Invitational Monday. Los Alamos plays Santa Fe in Thursday’s first round.

While Logan said she hadn’t had much of a chance to scout Santa Fe, she said she what the Demons bring or don’t bring to the table is immaterial.

“At this point, I don’t care,” she said. “We’re worrying about what we’re doing ... We’ve got to be able to run good screens and they have to use those screens. We have to get the pass to the roller and take it to the hole.”