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The second half adjustments that needed to be made by the Los Alamos Hilltopper girls basketball team obviously got made.
The Hilltoppers, hosting their final regular season home game Saturday night, struggled on the glass and struggled to stop Española Valley’s top player, Lauren Quintana, in the first half.
In the third quarter, Quintana’s production went way down and in the fourth quarter, the rebounding got much better.
Those two things, along with a hot shooting night by the Hilltoppers, gave them a big 48-42 upset at Griffith Gymnasium.
Los Alamos led almost the entire ballgame except for a brief stint in the second quarter, but whenever it tried to get some separation from the Sundevils, the Sundevils would make a run to keep pace. They were able to do so because of the stellar job they did on the offensive boards – finishing with 8 offensive rebounds in the first half leading to 14 second- or third-chance points.
At the end of the first, second and third quarters, the lead by Los Alamos was a single point, but the Hilltoppers felt confident they would be able to pull out the victory.
“As a team we’re really good,” Los Alamos forward Kiana Zerr said. “We knew we had it in us. We wanted to win. We were definitely the underdogs in this competition, but we wanted to show them we were here to play…we worked hard and we wanted it.”
The win gave Los Alamos (14-11 overall, 4-3 in 2-4A) the season split with the Sundevils. The Sundevils (20-5, 5-2 in 2-4A) won the first meeting between the two teams Jan. 30, 52-40. Because the Sundevils beat the Hilltoppers by more than the Hilltoppers beat the Sundevils, that gives Española Valley the head-to-heat tiebreaker in the unlikely event Española Valley falls to Bernalillo its in final district contest.
Tonight, Los Alamos closes out its regular season at Capital, which is in fourth place in the district standings. That game is scheduled to tip-off at 7 p.m.
The Hilltoppers defeated Capital in both their regular season meetings so far – they played at the Roswell Holiday Invitational in late December in a nondistrict contest.
Against Española Valley, Quintana dropped in 14 points in the first half. Quintana, a gifted player with a lightning-quick first step to the hoop, blazed her way through the interior defense of the Hilltoppers on numerous occasions in the first half.
But the key for Española Valley to keep the game close, despite Los Alamos shooting nearly 50 percent in the half, was its offensive rebounding. Española Valley managed to hit just 9 of 33 from the floor, but its performance on the offensive glass allowed it to keep scoring opportunities going.
Both those things were corrected by Los Alamos in the second half. While Española Valley still secured 6 offensive boards in the third quarter, it managed just one in the final quarter.
In fact, it was a big offensive rebound by McKenzie Logan that would secure Los Alamos’ win.
Los Alamos’ Erin Kirk missed the second of her foul shot attempts, but Logan squeezed through two Sundevil defenders to grab the rebound and was immediately fouled as she went up. Her shot was good and she converted the ensuing free throw to give Los Alamos a 6-point cushion with 10 seconds remaining.
Logan finished with 15 points on the night, hitting 6 of 10 shots from the floor. She equaled the output of Kirk, who was 5 of 11 shooting.
Following her big first half, Quintana had a quiet second half performance. Los Alamos Alison Crane, coming off the bench, was charged with the task of following Quintana around for much of the third quarter and gave her little space in which to operate.
Quintana would finish with 20, but was held to 2 points for the bulk of the second half before hitting two late field goals.
“They did the things we worked on this week,” Los Alamos head coach Ann Steward said of her team, noting the team didn’t do those things in a big loss early last week to Santa Fe. “It was definitely better defense than we had the other night. We did the things we needed to do to win.”