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The Los Alamos Hilltopper girls basketball team broke open a tight ballgame in a big way Friday night in Deming.
With about 7 minutes remaining in the game, the Hilltoppers held a slim 2-point edge over Deming’s Wildcats.
From there, Los Alamos outscored Deming 24-9 to win going away and punch its ticket to the state Class 4A quarterfinals.
With that push, 9th-seeded Los Alamos bounced 8th-seeded Deming from the playoffs, 62-45.
This will be the first trip the Hilltoppers have made to the quarterfinals in three seasons. Their last appearance in The Pit was in 2010. They were toppled in the opening round by Grants on the road in each of the last two seasons.
Los Alamos led the entire second half but couldn’t shake Deming.
Both teams had trouble converting from the field in Friday’s game but Los Alamos dominated on the glass, outrebounding Deming 46-31.
The Hilltoppers (17-12) held the Wildcats to just one point for the first four minutes of the game, but the Wildcats (17-10) would rally late in the quarter and lead 16-13.
Behind big first half efforts by Kiana Zerr and Erin Kirk, whom Deming had no answer for, Los Alamos regained the lead midway through the second quarter and moved out to a 26-21 advantage at the half. Zerr had 9 points in the first half and Erin Kirk finished with 7 points and 9 boards.
For the game, Kirk, a senior who on Tuesday will make her first appearance in The Pit in her high school career, finished the contest with 11 points, one of three Hilltoppers in double-figures.
Hilltopper point guard Amber Logan, who had a big game up top for Los Alamos, particularly after shooting guard McKenzie Logan got in early foul trouble, had 10 points in the game, while Zerr led all scorers with 16 points.
For Deming, a guard-heavy unit with good team speed, the exact type of team that has given Los Alamos headaches in the past, Celeste Camacho had 12 points and Kenzie Rinehart finished with 10.
The Hilltoppers now advance to play the top-seeded Los Lunas Tigers at 1:15 p.m. Tuesday in The Pit.
The Hilltoppers lost to the Tigers in the regular season at the Joe Armijo Invitational 77-45.
Los Lunas’ star, Tiege Zeller, transfered from Grants to Los Lunas in the offseasn. Zeller gave Los Alamos fits throughout her career at Grants, including in the two playoff losses in 2011 and 2012.
Special thanks to KOTS AM 1230 and KRSN AM 1490 for their help with this report.