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The things the Los Alamos Hilltopper girls basketball team started to show in its season opener, it sustained through four quarters Friday night.
Los Alamos put together a good run early on in the contest and the Pojoaque Valley Elks could never overcome that early deficit. Los Alamos used an efficient offense and made some big defensive stops when it needed to in a 53-47 victory at Griffith Gymnasium.
Hilltopper 6-foot center Hayley Each, battling a cold Friday night and held out of the starting lineup, dropped in 17 points coming off the bench, 12 of those in the second half including a big bucket with under 5 minutes remaining to quell a mini-run by the Elks.
It was the bounce-back showing the Hilltoppers were hoping for after a disappointing loss in their opener to the St. Michael’s Horsemen. But Friday night, instead of struggling to score points in the second half, the Hilltoppers kept up their offensive momentum, turning a 7-point advantage at the break to a 35-23 edge with 3:19 remaining in the third quarter.
The Hilltoppers’ win spoiled the Los Alamos debut of veteran coach Ron Drake with his new team. Drake, who resuscitated an Española Valley program that was on life support and led the Sundevils to four straight district titles, made the move this offseason to Pojoaque Valley.
Drake said his first months at Pojoaque Valley hasn’t gone as well as he’d hoped and many of the kinks the Elks are going to have to work through showed up in abundance against Los Alamos.
“There’s a lack of defense,” Drake said. “We worked hard to get to within five points, but we’re giving up too many easy points. I don’t know this team well enough, I’m used to my teams playing good defense, but it’s not there.”
Pojoaque Valley (1-2), which has seven games scheduled this season against Class 4A teams, will be tested before the District 2-3A season begins.
For Los Alamos, it did many good things Friday night, not the least of which was move without the ball toward the basket. Los Alamos got several good back-cuts that led to high-quality shots.
For the game, the Hilltoppers shot close to 50 percent.
On the other side of the court, the Hilltopper defense held the Elks to a mediocre 15 of 49 showing from the field (30.6 percent), while Each and Erin Kirk combined for five blocked shots.
Pojoaque Valley, however, was able to dribble-penetrate throughout the night, particularly Elk guard Cheyenne Cordova. Cordova sliced down the lane unabated all night long, setting herself up with numerous layup chances. Fortunately for Los Alamos, Cordova converted on just 8 of 21 shots, although she did finish with a game-high 24 points.
Los Alamos (1-1) never trailed against Pojoaque Valley. Midway through the first quarter, Los Alamos went on an 8-0 run, capped by a 3-pointer from Kirk.
It was another 3-pointer that may have been the play of the game for the Hilltoppers. With under 5 seconds to play in the third quarter and the Elks on a mini 7-2 run to get within 37-32, Los Alamos guard McKenzie Logan had her interior pass attempt batted straight back to her. As the buzzer sounded, Logan launched an off-balance 3 from the right corner that touched nothing but net.
The Elks would again get back to within five points early in the fourth quarter, but would never get closer. Anna Scott found Each cutting to the basket for a layup, then, about 30 seconds later, Scott blew through the key for a layup that put the Hilltoppers up by 9 points.
Los Alamos held a big lead early in its season opener against St. Mike’s early last week, but got into foul trouble late in the first half and into the second half, leaving the door open for St. Mike’s to come back and win.
Los Alamos also shot poorly from the free throw line against St. Mike’s. Its free throw shooting wasn’t a lot better Friday, as the team converted just 9 of 17.
Los Alamos 53, Pojoaque Valley 47
Pojoaque Valley 7 11 14 15—47
Los Alamos 13 12 15 13—53
Pojoaque Valley — Elena Rae Lopez 0-4 2-4 2, Cheyenne Cordova 8-21 5-7 24, Alyssa Roybal 3-4 0-2 6, Cheynne Law 0-2 1-2 1, Gaby Gonzalez 0-5 1-2 1, Leslie Gutierrez 4-6 0-2 9, Alexandria Baca 0-2 0-0 0, Amber Sky Lujan 0-2 4-6 4, Ody Andujo 0-1 0-0 0, Miranda Martinez 0-2 0-0 0, Tracy Ortiz 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 15-49 13-25 47.
Los Alamos — Amber Logan 0-3 0-0 0, Alison Crane 0-0 2-2 2, Erin Kirk 4-9 1-23 10, McKenzie Logan 3-7 0-0 7, Marissa Larribas 2-4 3-3 7, Anna Scott 3-6 0-0 6, Hayley Each 7-13 3-8 17, Elena Atencio 0-0 0-1 0, Kiana Zerr 2-4 0-1 4. Totals 21-46 9-17 53.