Girls basketball: LA holds off Espanola Valley for win

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By Mike Cote

ESPAÑOLA — On a wild night, the Los Alamos Hilltopper girls varsity basketball team escaped with a win.In a back-and-forth contest filled with fouls, turnovers and 3-pointers launched from all angles, Los Alamos picked up a big road win, knocking off the Española Valley Sundevils 55-51 at Edward Medina Gymnasium Friday night.The Sundevils, who have been struggling for the past two seasons under a slow rebuilding process, gave the Hilltoppers all they could handle, taking over the lead twice in the fourth quarter and never letting the ’Toppers settle in when they did have the lead.“Records don’t mean a darn thing at this point in the year,” Los Alamos head coach Gerry Washburn said. “I’d like for (games) to be comfortable, but I’ll take the 1-pointers as well as the 20-pointers.”Los Alamos post Bryanna Richins led the way to the District 2AAAA victory Friday. Richins poured in a career-high 25 points, 18 of those coming in the first half when, for most of the half, she was the only ’Topper offense to speak of.Richins said after the game she had no idea she’d scored anything close to 25 points.Richins was one of three Hilltoppers in double-figures Friday night, along with Taylor Ealey (15 points) and Sarah Ethridge (13 points). However, only four Hilltoppers scored on the night — point guard Tyree Richins hit a basket in the fourth quarter to finish with two points.Española Valley had no one who could come close to matching up with Los Alamos’ size, but managed to play very physical in the paint, something Los Alamos had to navigate against all night.“It was a little hard, but we fought through it pretty well,” Bryanna Richins said after the game. “In district games, it’s going to be like that all the time. They can’t match our size, so they’re going to hit us. We’ve got to be ready for that.”Los Alamos went to the free throw line 17 times in the game, but only hit nine of those attempts. Española Valley, which drew contact often when it penetrated inside the 3-point arc, shot 15 free throws and hit 12.Going into Friday’s game, Washburn said Española Valley (2-10 overall, 0-1 in 2AAAA) would shoot the ball anytime from any spot on the floor, and it did that for much of the night, attempting 22 3-pointers.With 28 seconds remaining in the first quarter and the score knotted at 8, Sundevil point guard Amber Trujillo canned an NBA-range 3-pointer, giving her team an 11-8 edge after one period.The Hilltoppers (10-9 overall, 2-0 in 2AAAA) went on a couple of mini-runs in the second quarter, a 9-2 spurt to start the quarter and a 10-2 spurt to finish it, to grab a 27-23 lead at the break.Richins went a perfect 5-for-5 in the second quarter, including a putback with 50 seconds remaining as the Hilltoppers reclaimed a lead they lost midway through the period. Ealey, who struggled with foul trouble for most of the contest, had eight points in the second quarter alone, hitting a 3-pointer of her own to put the ’Toppers within 14-13 at the 7:12 mark.In the third quarter, following a quick 8-3 Sundevil run, the two teams exchanged baskets for most of the rest of the game.A nifty runner fell for Sundevil guard Adrianna Martinez — she finished with 12 points — to give Española Valley a 38-37 edge with 1:03 left. But with time about to expire in the quarter, Ethridge buried a 3 from the right corner, giving Los Alamos a 1-point edge heading into the final period.Following the contest, Washburn said he was pleased with the way his team was able to fix its problems with Española Valley’s press in the second half.“We were pretty under control,” he said. “We got out of control two or three times, but I feel good. We tried very hard to run our offense. We didn’t get crazy.”Although Los Alamos turned the ball over 20 times, Washburn noted his team had almost that many turnovers in the first half alone against the Taos Tigers, whom Los Alamos beat 47-36 Tuesday in the district opener for both teams.In the final quarter, Española Valley’s leading scorer, Megan Martinez, fouled out of the game with 2:46 to play - she should’ve fouled out in the third quarter, but a foul she committed in the second quarter was incorrectly given to Adrianna Serna. Martinez had 18 points in the game, hitting 8 of 9 from the foul line.Trujillo finished with 13 points for Española Valley.The score was tied at 47 when Martinez fouled out. Two possessions later, Ealey’s fast-break layup gave the Hilltoppers a lead they would never relinquish.With Los Alamos up 53-51 and 18.0 seconds showing on the clock, Richins missed the front-end of a 1-and-1 chance, but Ealey wrestled the ball out of the grasp of Serna and hit her putback shot to seal the deal.Richins breathed a sigh of relief after the game.“I think we wanted to make (the spread) a little farther apart,” she said. “These games are kind of scary.”

NOTE: Capital played at Taos Friday in another 2AAAA game, but no score was reported. Capital has played two district games this season but hasn’t reported scores for either.