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KIRTLAND — If the Kirtland Central Broncos can stay as hot as they were Friday night, a blue trophy just might be in their future.
In the opening round of the Class AAAA state girls basketball playoffs, the Broncos, one of the most celebrated teams in the nation, were on fire on both ends of the court, routing the visiting Los Alamos Hilltoppers 62-33 and ending the Hilltoppers’ season.
While Los Alamos had some rough spots in the first half and played with fire in the belly in the second half despite being in a huge hole, Kirtland Central drilled nine 3-pointers in the course of the contest — six in the first half — from all areas of the floor.
Los Alamos, which has been a defensive-oriented team all season, actually played decent defense but Kirtland Central ran its motion perimeter offense nearly flawlessly and nary threw a bad pass in the game.
Topping the No. 4-seeded Broncos at home would’ve been a pretty major upset, something the Hilltoppers were well aware of going into Friday’s ballgame.
“I had hoped they were looking past us,” Los Alamos head coach Tarah Logan said after the team ended with two straight losses to close her rookie coaching season. “But a good team like (Kirtland Central) doesn’t do that.”
The Broncos looked like they might not have the touch early on Friday, misfiring of 4 of their first 5 shot attempts, but put together an 8-3 run midway through the first period to take control.
Every period, it seemed someone different on Kirtland Central’s roster was finding the basket. Wynonna Jim buried two 3-pointers in the first quarter, LaTeesha Nez had a pair of buckets in the second and Amanda Kerr had eight of her game-high 13 points in the third quarter.
Los Alamos turned in a hard-fought contest, but couldn’t overcome a stone-cold shooting night. It hit just 12 of 50 field goal attempts in the game (24.0 percent) and converted just five times in the first half as Kirtland Central grabbed a 30-13 lead at the half.
Friday’s loss wasn’t due to any lack of effort on the part of Sarah Worland.
Worland, a junior guard, harassed the Broncos throughout the contest, finishing with three steals.
Late in the first quarter, Worland made a diving reach for a Kirtland Central dribble in the backcourt, falling directly on top of the loose ball before getting it to teammate Tyree Richins.
Worland paced Los Alamos with nine points.
Center Bryanna Richins, a usual starter who suffered an early ankle injury in the Feb. 28 District 2AAAA championship game, which Los Alamos lost to Española Valley, saw limited action Friday. She didn't make her appearance until the 2:23 mark of the first half and was only in sporadically through the rest of the game.
Richins, a senior, had a rough final season of her prep career, suffering an illness which kept her out of two games late in the nondistrict season and the injury against the Sundevils in the district title game.
Los Alamos will lose only her and starting two-guard Kayci Harmon to graduation.
The Hilltoppers’ top scorer, Taylor Ealey, struggled like most of her teammates to get on track Friday, hitting just 3 of 13 from the field, finishing with eight points.
The other district team in the bracket, Española Valley, didn't fare much better in its first round game Friday night, falling at home to Belen 65-45.
Friday’s loss ended a topsy-turvy season for the Hilltoppers, who were a question mark after their second place finish in 2AAAA to even get into the 16-team playoff bracket.
The Hilltoppers lost three of their first four games of the season before winning three of their next four.
After a pair of back-to-back district losses, to Española Valley and Capital in late January and early February, Los Alamos reeled off four straight district wins, putting up some of its best offensive numbers during that span.
“There was a large learning curve,” Logan said of he season. “We’re glad we got this first year under our belts. We’re excited for this summer.”
The Hilltoppers finish the 2008-09 season with a record of 15-13.
Here are the results from Friday night’s Class AAAA girls basketball first round games and the schedule for Tuesday’s quarterfinal round.
(1) St Pius X 56, (16) Silver, 37
(8) Del Norte 43, (9) Artesia 39
(12) Aztec 41, (5) Deming 37
(4) Kirtland Central 62, (13) Los Alamos 33
(3) Moriarty 53, (14) Grants 29
(6) Shiprock 62, (11) Albuquerque Academy 40
(7) Belen 65, (10) Española Valley 45
(2) Roswell 69, (15) Volcano Vista 48
(all games Tuesday at The Pit)
Roswell vs. Belen, 9:45 a.m.
St. Pius vs. Del Norte, 1:15 p.m.
Kirtland Central vs. Aztec, 4:45 p.m.
Moriarty vs. Shiprock, 8:15 p.m.