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Tonight, the Los Alamos Hilltopper girls basketball team has a chance to set the tone in a big way for the remainder of the District 2-4A season.
After dismantling the Bernalillo Spartans in their 2-4A opener Tuesday night, the Hilltoppers take on the Santa Fe Demons at Griffith Gymnasium.
Los Alamos (11-8 overall, 1-0 in district), which has won two of three games under new head coach Ann Stewart, can take the early advantage in the district race, not to mention a huge psychological advantage over the rest of 2-4A, with a win tonight.
That win, however, isn’t going to come easily.
The Demons, at 17-0, are the only undefeated basketball team in the state of New Mexico, boys or girls, and are ranked No. 1 in this week’s Class 4A power ratings.
Santa Fe, which spent most of its first two years as an also-ran in district, came on last year to grab a runner-up finish and gave defending district champ Española Valley a serious run for its money.
Heading into this season, the Demons, with a very talented — and relatively young — group of players, were expected to make noise in 4A. What they’ve been is a rock band cranked all the way to 11.
Santa Fe is averaging a whopping 60.8 points per game while giving up less than 40 points per outing.
In the girls 4A rankings, Santa Fe leapfrogged Gallup to take over the No. 1 spot earlier this week, although the power ranking difference between the two teams remains razor thin. Santa Fe finished with a 29.1 rating and Gallup is rated 28.7.
Stewart is well aware of the challenges the Demons represent.
“We have to mix things up on defense,” she said. “We need to give them looks they haven’t seen from us. We have to take what we can get and make them play our game.”
Sophomore Kayla Herrera leads the powerful Santa Fe offense with 13.1 points per game, followed closely by Sabrina Lozada-Cabbage, another sophomore. Lozada-Cabbage, a 6-foot-2 center with impressive shooting skills, averages 12.9 points per outing.
Los Alamos, which recently lost its top scorer on the season, Hayley Each, has been scrambling to find someone to fill that go-to scorer.
The Hilltoppers may have found one, however, in McKenzie Logan.
Logan, an exciting junior guard with outstanding athletic ability, dropped in 18 points in an upset win by the Hilltoppers a week ago and had 14 points against Bernalillo despite seeing only limited action in the second half.
Meanwhile, Kiana Zerr has had some big recent outings, working from the post position.
On the other side of the court, Erin Kirk might be the best pure defender in the district. Tonight, however, Kirk will have the unenviable task of defending Santa Fe’s bigs inside, all of which have shown the ability to score.
LA boys looking to bounce back Saturday
Following a district-opening loss at the hands of the fast-gunning Bernalillo Spartans Wednesday, the Hilltopper boys basketball team will be hoping to rebound against Santa Fe Saturday.
The Hilltoppers will face Santa Fe’s Demons at Toby Roybal Memorial Gymnasium, a building the Demons protect very well.
Los Alamos (1-16, 0-1) hung with the Bernalillo Spartans in the early part of Wednesday’s game, but the Spartans got their running game going, which then opened up their impressive perimeter shooting game.
Once the Spartans established their offense, the game got out of reach for the Hilltoppers in a hurry.
Los Alamos head coach Fil Domin-guez said he’s expecting much the same type of up-tempo game from Santa Fe.
Santa Fe (8-10) opened its 2-4A season with a close loss at Española Valley Wednesday, falling 51-49.
The Demons will go into the game having lost three of their last four and five of their last seven, including a 46-34 loss at Taos Jan. 5 — Taos is the only team Los Alamos has beaten this year.
Senior Tres Chaires is averaging 12.6 points per game for the Demons, while senior Wyatt Honstein is posting 11.8 points per contest.
Dominguez said his team is going to have to play better on defense than it did Wednesday.
“We need to come back and pick up our defensive intensity,” he said. “We need our swagger. You have to act like you belong there and you can win, not just go through the motions.”