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LAHS takes down Española at Northern New Mexico College

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By Phil Scherer

This year’s Los Alamos High School girls’ basketball team goes against the grain when it comes to in-game strategy.

While the rest of the basketball universe is fixated on the three-point shot, the Hilltoppers prefer to throw the ball near the hoop and take a high percentage shot. When it works, as it did in Thursday’s 69-58 road win over the Española Valley Sundevils, the Hilltoppers look unstoppable.

In nearly every game, LAHS has a decided height advantage over its opponents. Five of the Hilltoppers stand at or near six feet tall, something very few girls’ teams around the country can claim. In recent games, the Hilltoppers have become more and more committed to getting the ball inside to juniors Becca Green and Natalie Gallegos whenever possible, and positive results have followed.

Thursday’s game, which was scheduled to take place at Española Valley High School, had to be moved to Northern New Mexico College due to a transformer issue at the high school. The move to a neutral site seemed to work in LAHS’ favor, as the Sundevils lost its energetic home crowd, one of the most intimidating in the state.

The Hilltopper plan of attack was clear from the beginning of the game, as five different players scored in the first quarter. All of the shots were taken from no more than 10 feet away from the basket.

On the other side, the Sundevils fired three-point shots at will, connecting on three of them. Those were the only baskets Española Valley made in the first quarter, as the Hilltoppers entered the second quarter leading 13-11.

Green took over for LAHS in the second quarter, as her teammates repeatedly found her near the basket. She connected on six layups in the quarter, and scored 18 points total in the first half. Behind her dominant performance, LAHS jumped out to a 32-23 halftime lead.

Sundevil senior Kaylinn Martinez, the daughter of longtime Española Valley coach Richard Martinez, had 16 points in the first half, including four three-point baskets. She finished the game with 29 points.

LAHS continued to attack under the basket in the second half, as Green and Gallegos both scored 6 points and senior Alex Calderon scored 4 points.

Calderon played a key role throughout the game for the Hilltoppers, acting as the team’s primary point guard. Against Española’s tough press defense, Calderon had no issues getting the ball into the frontcourt. Her dribbling and passing were outstanding throughout the game, and she did a nice job finishing near the basket. She finished the game with 16 points.

LAHS led by 10 points heading into the final quarter, and maintained that lead through the end of the game, winning 69-58.

In one of her top performances of the season, Green finished with 26 points and made 11 baskets. Gallegos also had a strong game, finishing with 10 points and playing a key role in rebounding the basket on both ends of the floor.

LAHS improves to 8-12 overall and 2-0 in District 2-4A play. The team returns to the court at 7 p.m. Tuesday on the road at Pojoaque Valley to face the district rival Elkettes. Pojoaque Valley is currently 17-3 and is ranked as one of the top Class 4A teams this season.