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Apparently, there is something to be said for saving things until the last minute.
That’s exactly what the Los Alamos Hilltopper girls basketball team did Saturday night and it paid off.
Los Alamos trailed the St. Michael’s Horsemen by three points with under a minute remaining, but hit two huge late buckets to pull out a thrilling victory.
With 48.5 seconds remaining, Erin Kirk hit her third 3-pointer of the game from the right side of the arc to tie the score. After Los Alamos forced a turnover, Anna Scott drained her only basket of the contest, a 12-foot jumper with :10 left, giving the Hilltoppers a 38-36 victory in their home opener.
“That last minute was very exciting,” Hilltopper guard Marissa Higdon said. “After Erin hit the three, we decided to put a press on the ball and see what happens.”
The final minute of the game made up for a rough performance through most of the fourth quarter. Los Alamos led by six going into the quarter, but scored just two points for a better than seven-minute stretch.
It was an uneven game for the Hilltoppers in Saturday’s home opener. The Hilltoppers moved out to a six-point lead after one quarter only to see it evaporate in the second quarter, then had to scramble to hang on after St. Mike’s outscored them 8-0 through seven-plus minutes in the fourth.
But the Hilltoppers were willing to take it. They fell in their season opener Friday night at Pojoaque 51-30.
Higdon said the intensity level Saturday was considerably higher than it had been against the small but speedy Pojoaque team.
“We failed to play at our top level the whole game,” she said of the loss to the Elks in Pojoaque. “We had them in the beginning, but we lost our intensity.”
Saturday, Los Alamos shot a little better than it did against Pojoaque, 41.9 percent to right around 26 percent, but the defense and poor foul shooting by St. Mike’s proved to be the difference.
The Hilltoppers kept the Horsemen to just eight points in the first quarter and five points in the third quarter. For nearly 14 minutes in the first half, the Hilltoppers held the Horsemen to just one field goal, but a late push at the end of the second quarter, including a 3-pointer by Monique Romero with under 30 seconds left, gave the Horsemen a 20-19 edge heading into the half.
Romero finished with eight points in the first half — a Romero 3-pointer with under 10 seconds left just rimmed out — but Los Alamos was able to contain her in the second half.
The first half was made considerably tougher for the defense, however, as the Hilltoppers started out the game foul-happy. St. Mike’s was into the double-bonus before the end of the first quarter.
The Horsemen didn’t capitalize, however, misfiring on 9 of 19 attempts from the stripe. The Horsemen finished just a hair above 50 percent from the line Saturday.
Offensively, Los Alamos head coach Tarah Logan said she was considerably happier with Saturday’s performance.
“There definitely was a more balanced attack,” she said. “We wanted to do more inside-outside. We still need discipline and more control in the half-court offense.”
While Romero, Elizabeth Serrano and Alexa Chavez provided the vast majority of the Horsemen’s offense, Los Alamos worked the ball around all night and kept the St. Mike’s defense guessing.
Kirk, with her older brother, Lobo sophomore Alex Kirk, in attendance, had one of the best nights of her career, hitting a perfect 4-for-4 from the floor for a game-high 12 points, including all three of Los Alamos’ 3-pointers.
The Hilltopper bench, meanwhile, was productive for much of the night. The bench combined for 13 points, while the Horsemen bench accounted for just one point. Hayley Each had six points — second-best production on the team — coming off the bench, while Elena Atenico added four points.
Against Pojoaque, Monika Teter paced the Hilltoppers with 16 points.
Chavez had 11 points for St. Mike’s (0-1).
Logan said she saw her team play better on both ends of the floor when it played pressure defense.
“Both times when we struggled we pulled the press off and when they had an easier time coming down the court,” she said. “What it took was getting back into the full-court press. That was a good learning point for the team and for the coaching staff.”
Los Alamos 38,
St. Michael’s 36
St. Michaels 8 12 5 11—36
Los Alamos 14 5 12 7—38
Los Alamos — Anna Scott 1-3 0-0 2, Marissa Higdon 2-4 0-0 4, Erin Kirk 4-4 1-2 12, McKenzie Logan 1-6 2-2 4, Monika Teter 1-5 1-2 3, Hayley Each 2-6 2-2 4, Elena Atencio 2-2 0-0 4, Christina Perez 0-1 1-2 1, Christine Larribas 0-1 1-2 1, Amber Logan 0-0 0-0 0, Marissa Larribas 0-0 2-2 2. Totals 13-31 9-12 38.
Española Valley — Christina Gabaldon 0-4 2-3 2, Erin Torrez 0-3 3-4 3, Monique Romero 4-9 0-0 10, Elizabeth Serrano 3-4 3-5 9, Alexa Chavez 3-8 5-11 11, Adrianna Lovato 0-0 0-0 0, Alexandra Groenwold 0-1 0-2 0, Viola Pecos 0-2 1-2 1, Adrienne Chavez 0-0 0-0 0, Maggie Fonziak 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 10-31 14-27 36.
3-point goals — St. M 2-6 (Romero 2-5, Alexa Chavez 0-1), LA 3-7 (Kirk 3-3, M. Logan 0-2, Scott 0-1, Each 0-1). Total fouls — St. M 14, LA 22. Fouled out — None. Technicals — None.