LA's late comeback try vs. Española Valley falls short

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By Mike Cote

Had the Los Alamos Hilltopper girls basketball team kept even a little bit closer with the Española Valley Sundevils Wednesday night, the final minutes could’ve been very different.
Los Alamos found its stroke from the floor and Española Valley couldn’t hang on to possession long enough to run any clock, making the game considerably tighter in the second half than it originally looked like it might be.
But the big hole the Hilltoppers fell into in the first half was a deep one. The Hilltoppers trailed by 19 points after two quarters and Española Valley held on for a 57-48 win at Griffith Gymnasium.
Los Alamos and Española Valley are believed to be the two teams that will duke it out for the No. 2 spot in the District 2-4A race this season, but with their win, the Sundevils have the early leg up over the Hilltoppers.
In the first quarter, Los Alamos was held to just five points. Española Valley, which features one of the best running games in the state, had it going to full effect early on and Los Alamos struggled to keep up.
“We got outhustled,” Hilltopper point guard Amber Logan said. “They got to every ball, every loose ball. We definitely came back in the second half and we ended up being the people that were getting to the ball.”
Española Valley (15-5 overall, 2-1 in district) is a very young but very talented team, featuring just 3 upperclassmen, 7 sophomores and 3 freshmen on its roster.
Among those youngsters are Kaitlyn Romero and Ashlynn Trujillo, sophomores who have been big contributors to the team since their eighth grade year, and freshman center Alexis Lovato, who had a big impact in Wednesday night’s game.
Lovato finished with a team-high 16 points. She put in 6 of those points in critical times in the fourth quarter as the Hilltoppers were making an improbable comeback.
But having talented youth is often a double-edged sword, as the Sundevils showed against the Hilltoppers. Despite holding a big lead, the Sundevils didn’t slow down their offense even a bit to run clock in the second half.
Los Alamos took advantage, forcing 7 turnovers in the third quarter and translating those into 8 points on the other end as the Hilltoppers doubled the Sundevils’ scoring output, 16-8.
Logan, who had the hot hand for the Hilltoppers (9-11, 1-2) buried a pair of 3-pointers in the third quarter — she connected four times from long-range — while the Hilltoppers also got key buckets from Kiana Zerr and McKenzie Logan to jump-start their comeback attempt.
Amber Logan, who has turned in some nice scoring totals in recent games, finished with 21 points to lead everybody, while Zerr had 10 points.
Logan’s 3-ball with 2:34 in the fourth quarter cut the lead to 8. Los Alamos would actually whittle the lead all the way down to 7, but that was with just a few ticks left.
Both teams shot poorly from the foul line. Neither broke the 50-percent mark, with Los Alamos hitting 12 of 25 attempts and the Sundevils managing just a 9-for-19 performance.
For Española Valley, Trujillo finished with 15 points and Romero had 9. McKenzie Logan had 6 points and 6 assists for the Hilltoppers.
Los Alamos has just one game remaining in the first go-round of district play, that scheduled for Saturday at lowly Capital (0-16).
Last weekend, Los Alamos fell to district-leading Santa Fe, which also topped Española Valley in its district opener Jan. 21.