Belen soars past Hilltoppers

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By Phil Scherer

Slow starts continue to plague the Los Alamos High School girls basketball team. The latest example came Thursday evening at Griffith Gymnasium, as the Hilltoppers went down 19-6 in the first quarter en route to a 65-37 loss to Belen High School, the team’s third lopsided defeat in a row.

LAHS has started slow in nearly every game so far this season, facing double-digit first quarter deficits in all but one game to this point. In the Hilltoppers’ first game on the road against Farmington High School, the team was able to overcome the deficit for a 44-40 victory, but that fortune has not followed them since.

Belen came at LAHS fast, and shot with accuracy in the first quarter. Of the seven shots the Eagles attempted from the field, seven of them connected, including multiple three-point baskets.

Unlike previous games, where the Hilltoppers struggled to get the ball across half court facing a full-court press, the issue in this game was maintaining control once the team crossed mid court.

Due to turnover issues, LAHS attempted just four shots in the first quarter, connecting on two of them, with baskets by Alix Hailey and Becca Green.

One key problem from the beginning was that the most effective forwards for the Hilltoppers, Green and Natalie Gallegos, both ended up in foul trouble early in the contest. This forced the team to go to a smaller lineup, and allowed Belen to guard the perimeter and pick up easy rebounds.

After one quarter, Belen led 19-6.

LAHS played better in the second quarter, as Katey Green came off the bench and picked up three baskets in a row.

Alex Calderon, who played a big factor in the Hilltoppers winning the first two games of the season, connected on a deep three-point basket in the quarter as well.

Despite outscoring Belen 15-13 in the quarter, LAHS went into the locker room for halftime trailing 32-21.

The momentum gained by the Hilltoppers in the second quarter didn’t carry over to the second half, however. The shooting struggles of LAHS continued, as the Hilltoppers connected on just three shots in the third quarter, and were outscored 16-8.

That put the deficit at 48-29 with eight minutes to play, and signaled the end of any drama regarding the outcome of the game.

With the junior varsity players in for the Hilltoppers for much of the fourth quarter, Belen continued to extend the lead, and won 65-37.

Belen’s Brittany Saiz was the game’s leading scorer with 17 points, including five three-point baskets. Also in double digits for Belen was Eryn Jaramillo, who scored 13. Eleven of those points came in the third quarter.

The Hilltoppers’ leading scorer was Katey Green, who did most of her damage in the first half before fouling out in the final quarter. She finished with 10 points.

Also contributing on offense were Gallegos and Becca Green, who finished with 6 and 5 points, respectively.

Calderon and Jenna Harris connected on LAHS’ only two three-point shots of the evening.

The loss drops the Hilltoppers’ record to 2-3 in the non-district season.

Next up for LAHS is a road matchup Tuesday evening against Santa Fe High School. The game will begin at 7 p.m. So far this season, Santa Fe High is 0-2, with losses to West Mesa High School and Aztec High School.

Last season, Santa Fe defeated the Hilltoppers 51-38 inside Griffith Gymnasium.