Girls basketball: Toppers fall in first round against Matadors, 63-22

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By Mike Cote

ALBUQUERQUE — The tall order the Los Alamos Hilltopper girls basketball team had Thursday went unfilled.

In Thursday’s first round of the Joe Armijo Invitational, the Hilltoppers ran into a hot team that’s pressure defense and interior passing were firing on all cylinders.

The Sandia Matadors jumped ahead quickly and never trailed in Thursday’s opening round game. The Matadors held the Hilltoppers to nine points or fewer in each quarter to win 63-22 at Albuquerque Academy West Gymnasium.

Once again, Los Alamos connected on exactly nine field goals in the game, the exact same total it produced in losses this season to Pojoaque and St. Michael’s.

Turnovers were a problem for the Hilltoppers as well, as they coughed the ball up 14 times in the second and third quarters. The Matadors took advantage of those turnovers as well, turning those into 16 points on the other end.

Sandia’s well-timed and well-executed full- and half-court pressure was simply too much for Los Alamos, which had its lowest point output of the season.

“We run that in practice all the time,” Hilltopper post player Shelby Courtright said of the pressing defenses. “It’s a matter of executing on the court. Our guards did a good job of keeping the ball under control even when they had pressure.”

Courtright was one of the few offensive bright spots for Los Alamos (1-3) Thursday. Courtright dropped in a season-high 14 points, hitting 6 of 11 chances from the floor against some big bodies flying around in the paint.

Sandia (5-1) is one of the few teams in the state that can match Los Alamos’ height down low and its post players displayed some adept interior passing that made Los Alamos’ defensive job considerably tougher.

The Class 5A Matadors’ offensive effort was led by forward Ebony Walker, who finished with 13 points but also handed out five assists. Low-post players Dana Lanyer and Christa Maese combined for 18 points off the bench.

“They had a lot of strong players, a lot of big girls, but games like this make us better,” Courtright said. “It was good for them to push us around.”

Also for the Matadors, guard Elena Velasquez finished with 12 points, many of them on easy layups coming off Los Alamos turnovers.

For Los Alamos, Sarah Worland hit 2 field goals in 3 chances to finish with 4 points. The only other field goal scored by Los Alamos was provided by Taylor Ealey early in the first quarter.

The Hilltoppers trailed by just two points at the midway point in the first quarter, but the Matadors’ defensive stand through the remainder of the period, which translated into three late turnovers, sparked an 11-2 run.

On the opposite side of the bracket, Valley knocked off St. Pius X 48-41.

Los Alamos and St. Pius were scheduled to meet today in the tournament.