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Girls’ basketball earns dramatic victory over Española in district tourney

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By Phil Scherer

All season, Los Alamos High School girls’ basketball coach Lanse Carter has believed sophomore Michaela Gonzales is a special player. Thursday night, she proved him right. With the team’s top three scorers on the bench with foul outs, Gonzales stepped up and led the Hilltoppers to a 71-60 win over Española Valley in the district tournament semifinals. 

Gonzales has been a vocal leader for the Hilltoppers all season, and at various points has knocked down key free throws and shots to lead her team to victory. 

But, until Thursday’s game, her contributions have always been secondary to the outstanding scoring and rebounding abilities of Becca Green. She has been overshadowed by the ball-handling abilities of Alex Calderon. 

But with Calderon, Green and Natalie Gallegos on the bench late in the game, Gonzales could no longer be overlooked. She knocked down shot after shot and kept her team’s season alive. 

“That was a total team win,” Carter said. “No question about that.”

Two weeks ago, LAHS lost 46-44 to the Sundevils, a game in which no player except Green scored more than 6 points for LAHS. 

It was clear early on that would not be the case in the rematch. 

LAHS spread the ball around well early in the game, as four players got into the scoring column in the first quarter. 

This included Jenee Montoya, who knocked down a key three-point basket. 

The only problem for the Hilltoppers was trying to slow down the Sundevil offense, especially Kaylinn Martinez, who scored 9 points in the opening quarter, and scored 9 more points in the second quarter. 

LAHS trailed 15-9 after the first quarter, and trimmed that deficit to 33-29 by halftime. Calderon and Gallegos stepped up for LAHS in the second quarter, as both of them knocked down a three-pointer and also connected on a pair of layups. 

Multiple times in the second quarter, LAHS took the lead only to have Martinez answer for the Sundevils with a deep three-pointer. 

LAHS made great adjustments defensively at halftime, holding the Sundevils to 10 points in the third quarter. Due to turnovers and sloppy play offensively, LAHS was unable to take full advantage, and entered the final quarter trailing 43-41. 

Green, who was held to just 8 points through the first three quarters, stepped up at the beginning of the fourth quarter with 8 points, giving her 16 points for the game. She also got into foul trouble, though, and fouled out of the game with 1:37 left on the clock. 

Without Green under the basket, offense was initially difficult to find for LAHS, who only scored from the free throw line through the rest of regulation. 

Despite that, the Hilltoppers led 56-54 with less than five seconds left. Española’s Jazmine Baca drove hard toward the basket and drew a foul, though, giving the Sundevils new life. Baca knocked down both free throws and sent the game to overtime tied 56-56. 

Within the first two minutes of overtime, Calderon and Gallegos both fouled out for LAHS, leaving the team with limited options offensively. 

That’s when Gonzales stepped up. 

She went 9-9 from the free throw line in the fourth quarter and overtime, and also knocked down a pair of contested layups. 

Gonzales also played great on the defensive end, securing rebounds and contesting every shot near the basket. The Sundevils only made one shot from the field in overtime, allowing LAHS to take control and not let go. 

LAHS outscored the Sundevils 15-4 in overtime and won the game 71-60. 

Gonzales led all scorers with 24 points, while Green added 16 points for the Hilltoppers. Calderon added 13 points, while Gallegos scored 12 points.