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Second half struggles keep LAHS winless in district

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By Phil Scherer

Despite showing flashes of exciting play Saturday night, the Los Alamos High School girls’ basketball team lost its fifth straight district game, falling to Del Norte High School on the road 53-31.

Heading into the game, there was reason for optimism among the Hilltopper faithful. In the first meeting between the teams, the game came down to the final seconds in a 39-36 Del Norte victory. It was close from beginning to end.

This game had a much different feel early on, as the Knights’ girls attacked the Hilltoppers without fear in the first quarter. Del Norte captain Amanda Burks set the tone offensively, scoring her team’s first 11 points of the game, including three impressive 3-point shots. With the strong shooting of Burks, Del Norte jumped out to a quick 11-2 lead.

The gap continued to widen throughout the first quarter, as the Knights repeatedly found a way to get open underneath the basket, resulting in easy layup opportunities.

After falling behind 21-6 as time expired in the first quarter, the Hilltoppers caught a break for the first time in the ballgame. Attempting a three-quarter-court heave at the buzzer, LAHS’ Alex Calderon was fouled, sending her to the free throw line to shoot three shots.

She made two of the three, and cut the deficit to 21-8 heading into the second quarter.

Calderon’s strong play continued into the second quarter, as she took good care of the ball, and knocked down three 3-pointers, including a buzzer-beater to end the first half. The defense also played well in the quarter, limiting Del Norte to 6 points.

At halftime, Del Norte led 27-24, and momentum had shifted to the Hilltopper locker room.

It turned out to be short-lived, though. Del Norte came out of the locker room with all the energy, and seized control of the game almost immediately. The Knights’ defense clamped down on the LAHS shooters, and did not allow the Hilltoppers to make a shot in the quarter.

LAHS’ only third-quarter point came on a free throw from Natalie Gallegos, while Del Norte scored 15 points in the quarter. The strong quarter extended the Knights’ lead to 17 points, at 42-25, and put the game out of reach.

Del Norte drained the clock as often as possible in the fourth quarter, and limited the opportunities for LAHS in the final minutes.

The Hilltoppers knocked down three shots in the quarter, from Calderon, Susana Gallegos and Jenna Harris, but it was not nearly enough as Del Norte cruised to a 53-31 victory.

Calderon led LAHS with 13 points, and three 3-pointers. Natalie Gallegos had 5 points and Anna Lemke added 4 points.

No other player scored more than 3 points.

With the loss, LAHS drops to 5-18, and 0-5 in District 2-5A play. The Hilltoppers will return to action tonight to take on Albuquerque Academy at Griffith Gymnasium at 7 p.m. The two teams split two earlier matchups this season.