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After a tumultuous season in 2012-13, the Los Alamos Hilltopper girls basketball team is hoping things have stabilized.
Tonight will be its first chance to see how stable things have become.
Los Alamos will open the season tonight at home. It will face the St. Michael’s Horsemen at 7 p.m.
Smack dab in the middle of last season, head coach Tarah Logan abruptly stepped down, citing family issues, and one starter and one key reserve player both left the team at the same time.
Ann Stewart took over for Logan at that point and things seemed to settle down.
Stewart, who will return for her first full season guiding the program, feels the team is ready to concentrate on basketball and not any of the other distractions from last season. She said the focus has been there during the preseason and, for her, a lot of heavy lifting has gone on to prepare.
“I’m tired,” Stewart said. “I’m trying to cover all the bases and get ready for the first game. It’s one of those things, though, you wake up the middle of the night and you can’t go back to sleep because you can’t turn your brain off.”
St. Mike’s, which plays in Class 3A, could prove to be an interesting first test for Los Alamos. Like the Hilltoppers last season, the Horsemen seemed to run hot-and-cold and, like the Hilltoppers, are expected to have several players back this season.
Following tonight’s game, the Hilltoppers will be on the road Saturday at Pojoaque Valley, a tough early season test. They will then come back home for their first game against a Class 4A opponent, Albuquerque Academy.
The tough early season schedule will let Los Alamos know pretty quickly where it stands.
Last season, Los Alamos finished 17-13. It was third in District 2-4A and advanced to the quarterfinal round of the 4A playoffs before bowing out against Los Lunas, a team it will see in the first round of Academy’s home tournament in mid-December.
The strength of the Hilltoppers last season was their inside game. One of their main weapons inside was Erin Kirk, who provided not only timely point production and good rebounding, but was a key stabilizing force for the Hilltoppers after the midseason turmoil.
Kirk is now gone, however, and the Hilltoppers will have to figure out how to fill that void.
Toward the end of last season, forward Kiana Zerr came on strong. Zerr had a big 2-4A season and the team is hoping she will pick up where she left off.
Also this season, Marissa Larribas returns to the team, which could mean added depth inside.
Los Alamos is guard-heavy this season. With that, Stewart is hoping the team will be able to get up and down the floor and keep up with the up-tempo teams in district.
The district is shaping up to be another dogfight in 2013-14. But the big dog in the district is still defending champ Santa Fe, which is positioned to be one of the teams to beat in 4A come playoff time.
Los Alamos’ top returner is shooting guard McKenzie Logan. Logan finished second in scoring last year behind Kirk with 8.3 points per game and attempted and made about half the team’s 3-pointers, along with having a team-high 2.3 assists per contest.
The second half of last season was the best stretch of Logan’s career-to-date, having been with the varsity since she was a freshman. Her performance during the 2-4A season was good enough to get her an All-District first team nod.
Point guard Amber Logan, the lone junior on the team, will also return and will likely do the majority of the ball-handling. She averaged 1.7 assists per game last year.
Ann Stewart (1st year)
Shannon Doyle, guard
Krysta Salazar, guard
Allison Crane, guard
Kristen Paulson, forward
Elena Atencio, guard
Marissa Larribas, center
McKenzie Logan, guard
Kiana Zerr, forward
Amber Logan, guard
Nov. 26: vs. St. Michael’s, 7 p.m.
Nov. 30: at Pojoaque Valley, 7 p.m.
Dec. 5: vs. Albuquerque Academy, 7 p.m.
Dec. 7: at Moriarty, 7 p.m.
Dec. 10: at Hope Christian, 7 p.m.
Dec. 12: vs. Los Lunas at Joe Armijo Invite, 9:45 a.m.
Dec. 13-14: at Joe Armijo Invite, TBA.
Dec. 20: vs. Piedra Vista, 6 p.m.
Dec. 26: vs. Gadsden at Goddard Invite, 2:30 p.m.
Dec. 27-28: at Goddard Invite, TBA.
Jan. 2: at West Las Vegas, 7 p.m.
Jan. 4: at Belen, 4 p.m.
Jan. 10: vs. St. Pius X, 7 p.m.
Jan. 14: vs. Taos, 7 p.m.
Jan. 17: at Sandia, 7 p.m.
Jan. 18: at Grants, 6 p.m.
Jan. 21: vs. Bernalillo, 7 p.m.*
Jan. 24: at Santa Fe, 7 p.m.*
Jan. 29: vs. Española Valley, 7 p.m.*
Feb. 1: at Capital, 7 p.m.*
Feb. 7: at Bernalillo, 7 p.m.*
Feb. 12: vs. Santa Fe, 7 p.m.*
Feb. 15: at Española Valley, 7 p.m.*
Feb. 18: vs. Capital, 7 p.m.*