Girls basketball: LA opens 2AAAA at Taos

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By Mike Cote

Everything up to this point has just been a warm-up. Now the real work begins.

Los Alamos’ girls basketball team heads to Taos tonight to take on the homestanding Tigers in the opener of the District 2AAAA season for both teams. Tonight’s game is scheduled to start at 7 p.m.

This will also start the first 2AAAA race for first-year Hilltopper coach Tarah Logan, who thinks her team is ready to go.

Logan said her team would have to be ready to handle full-court pressure by district time. While Los Alamos has had spotty success against pressure for most of the season, its last two outings against Belen and Del Norte convinced her that things are starting to head in the right direction.

“I feel a whole lot better,” Logan said following Friday’s road win over Del Norte. “Everyone we play (in district) will press us like crazy. We were executing our press break as well as we have all year. (Other teams) will have to take it off or else we’ll be getting layup after layup.”

Taos, meanwhile, has been about as streaky as a team can be, both good and bad, in the 2008-09 nondistrict season. Taos (5-8) has had two short winning streaks — two games and three games — in between three losing streaks.

It is currently on a three-game skid, but in its most recent outing kept stride-for-stride with St. Michael’s, losing 59-55 Saturday night.

While the Tigers have generally been a menace to the Hilltoppers, the Hilltoppers didn’t have too many problems with the Tigers last season, winning both their meetings by double-digit margins.

That doesn’t give Los Alamos a whole lot of comfort at this point, however.

“As far as I’m concerned, playing at Taos, you’re going to have trouble,” Logan said.

The two teams will meet again Feb. 6 at Griffith Gymnasium.

Los Alamos, which has won three straight District 2AAAA tournaments, is considered the favorite to grab the regular season district title heading in.

Unlike last season, however, when Los Alamos was a pretty heavy favorite at the start of district play. This season, Los Alamos could get pretty stiff competition from District 2AAAA tournament runner-up Española Valley.

The Sundevils currently hold the best record among the district teams at 10-4, although they haven’t played nearly as tough a nondistrict schedule as the Hilltoppers (9-8). They open district tonight at Capital

Española Valley is led by guard Megan Martinez, who was named the top player in 2AAAA last season. Española Valley also does have some height this season, with five players listed at 5-foot-7 or above, a rarity for a team which has relied heavily on its quickness for most of the past decade.

The Hilltoppers and Sundevils will meet Jan. 31 at Los Alamos and Feb. 17 at Española Valley.

Beyond Los Alamos and Española Valley, however, district teams have struggled this season. Bernalillo and Capital have combined for just three wins in 28 outings.

Once again, the district tournament will follow the district regular season schedule. The regular season champion will be the top seed for the tournament and host the tournament championship game, while the fifth seed will have to win three road games to qualify for the championship game.

Also like last year, only the regular season district champion and the tournament champion will be guaranteed a spot in the Class AAAA postseason, even if one team wins both.

A quick look: District 2AAAA girls basketball

Bernalillo Spartans

2008 record: 2-11

Key wins

Jan. 10 at Cuba, 50-38

Key losses

Dec. 19 at Del Norte, 60-9

Jan. 7 at Socorro, 72-21

Anything better than the District 2AAAA basement will be a victory for this group, which has failed to break 30 points in four games this season. Bernalillo struggled in 2007-08, and with five freshmen and three sophomores on the team this season, it could be out of 2AAAA by the time the ship is righted.

Capital Jaguars

2008 record: 1-13

Key wins

Dec. 2 at Valencia, 63-49

Key losses

Dec. 4 vs. Espanola Valley, 60-39

Dec. 18 at St. Michael’s, 53-51

Jan. 7 vs. Pojoaque, 73-52

The Jaguars’ record is somewhat misleading, as they’ve played some good teams very tough. If they’re on their game, they can give anyone in the district a run for the money. If Capital is off, however, it could get run out of the gymnasium.

Española Valley Sundevils

2008 record: 10-4

Key wins

Dec. 20 vs. Santa Fe, 64-35

Jan. 8 vs. West Las Vegas, 65-53

Key losses

Dec. 6 vs. Deming, 62-38

Jan. 13 at Pojoaque, 54-43

After a surprise turnaround last season, finishing second in 2AAAA in head coach Ron Drake’s second year, expectations are high in the Valley. Its Jan. 31 meeting with Los Alamos will likely put one of those two teams in the driver’s seat. Sundevil guard Megan Martinez is the reigning district Player of the Year.

Los Alamos Hilltoppers

2008 record: 9-8

Key wins

Dec. 4 at St. Michael’s, 40-39

Dec. 19 vs. Piedra Vista, 37-28

Jan. 6 at Volcano Vista, 57-43

Key losses

Nov. 29 vs. Pojoaque, 63-41

Jan. 13 vs. Belen, 55-45

Los Alamos will need to find consistency on offense if it wants to defend its three straight district titles. While the Hilltoppers are going in as the favorite, their backcourt will be tested heavily night after night so the ball doesn’t get to the team’s main scoring threats, Bryanna Richins and Taylor Ealey.

Taos Tigers

2008 record: 5-8

Key wins

Dec. 9 vs. Robertson, 31-26

Dec. 22 vs. McCurdy, 36-28

Key losses

Dec. 5 vs. Española Valley, 47-28

Dec. 18 vs. Grants, 60-35

Jan. 5 vs. Moriarty, 53-28

The Tigers aren’t likely to break any bulbs in anyone’s scoreboard, but have held some good teams to relatively small numbers this season. With 5-foot-8 Monica Trujillo and 5-foot-7 Iesha Mitchell and Sydney Swinehart, Taos could be able to counter some of the taller players in the district.