Girls basketball: Toppers fall at home Saturday

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By Mike Cote

While the Los Alamos Hilltopper girls basketball team did a good job in slowing down one of District 2AAAA’s premier players, it wasn’t enough to pull off the upset Saturday night.
Los Alamos kept Española Valley’s Justine Vigil from taking over Saturday’s ballgame the way she had the first time the two teams met, but the Española Valley’s Sundevils’ potent offense still proved to be too tough.
Sundevil bench player Lilly Martinez dropped in eight points in a big second quarter for her team, while the Hilltoppers again struggled to hold on to the ball. The Sundevils picked up a 60-38 victory at Griffith Gymnasium.
The win sealed the third straight regular season District 2AAAA title for Española Valley (18-2 overall, 6-0 in district), giving it the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Hilltoppers, the only team that could mathematically catch it heading into the ballgame.
“This was a good one,” Sundevil head coach Ron Drake said afterward. “People this season were saying that without Nisa (Duran), we weren’t going to be as good, but these girls are good. They play a heckuva defense.”
Española Valley has hardly missed Duran, the All-Star guard for the Sundevils who graduated after last season. Justine Vigil, Española Valley’s shooting guard, has carried much of the load. Vigil’s touches were limited, however, as she was the focus of a first half box-and-1 defense deployed by the Hilltoppers.
The Hilltoppers (11-12, 5-2) hung around with the Sundevils through the first quarter, but but turnovers would ultimately do them in. The Hilltoppers coughed up the ball 17 times in the first half and went on a stretch of 13:04 in the first half without hitting a field goal.
Los Alamos was able to get to the free throw line Saturday, however. Christine Larribas converted 5 of 6 attempts in the second quarter despite the scoring drought from the field that otherwise might have turned the game into a rout early.
For the Hilltoppers, they were led by McKenzie Logan’s seven points. Logan, who provided a spark off the bench, connecting a pair of 3 pointers, went down hard when she was fouled attempting a runner in the third quarter and did not return.
Consistent scoring for Los Alamos, however, was hard to come by Saturday, particularly due to the 30 overall turnovers. Kamille Chavez and Tina Radosevich finished with six and Larribas had five.
For the Sundevils, Vigil, who dropped in 27 points in the teams’ first meeting Jan. 26, was held to nine Saturday, but Martinez finished with 12 while Lauren Quintana and Amanda Maestas added eight each.
Española Valley outscored Los Alamos 30-19 in each half.
Los Alamos has just one district game remaining for the regular season, one that still could be of consequence. It will play Capital Tuesday night in Santa Fe. Capital could potentially even up the race for second place in 2AAAA with a victory Tuesday, pending the outcome of its game Saturday against Bernalillo, the result of which wasn’t available as of press time.