'Toppers fall to No. 1 team in state

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Girls basketball > Turnovers cost LA in 3rd quarter

By Mike Cote

SANTA FE — For three quarters, the Los Alamos Hilltopper girls basketball team held its own against the No. 1 team in the state.
But the game would come down to that other quarter.
Despite the fact that few people giving them much of a chance to compete with the bigger, stronger Santa Fe Demons, the Hilltoppers held the lead for a good portion of the first half and actually outscored the Demons in two quarters Friday night at Toby Roybal Memorial Gymnasium.
But a rough third quarter, which included three points scored and a dozen turnovers, propelled the Demons to the win. The Demons prevailed 50-37 and in doing so, took control of the District 2-4A race.
Just two games into the district season, Santa Fe has a clear path to victory. With Friday’s win it has topped its two toughest competitors in the first go-round of regular season play and just needs to hold serve against its two lesser competitors — there is little reason to believe either will be able to keep up with the Demons — to earn the district title.
The good news for the Hilltoppers is they now know they can keep pace with the Demons, but they will need to clean things up when they face the Demons again Feb. 12 at Griffith Gymnasium.
“Third quarter, we turned the ball over and we took ourselves out of it with that,” Los Alamos head coach Ann Stewart said. “When you’re not taking care of the ball, you’re not going to win. Next time, if we lessen the turnovers, it’s a different ballgame.”
There were several positives for Los Alamos — which dropped to 9-10 with the loss and is still unable to get over the .500 mark — the biggest being its defense was able to contain the Demons’ big three, Kayla Herrera, Jackie Martinez and Sabrina Lozada-Cabbage to reasonable point totals.
The 6-foot-2 Lozada-Cabbage, who, as a junior, is attracting a lot of attention from colleges, had 16 points and 9 boards, good totals but not the gawdy figures she is capable of.
Meanwhile, Martinez, who has long been a thorn in Los Alamos’ side, managed just 3 points and didn’t hit a shot from the floor.
It wasn’t all good news for Los Alamos, however. With under 30 seconds left and the Demons having salted the game away, starting off-guard McKenzie Logan came up gimpy, favoring her left knee.
Santa Fe has been at or near the top of the Class 4A charts all season long with a veteran nucleus returning, including Lozada-Cabbage, who is one of the top five post players in the entire state.
But after the game, she said the effort in the first half wasn’t what she was hoping to see, particularly after following up on a game earlier last week where the Demons struggled against Española Valley for the first 16 minutes before coming back to win.
“We need to improve on putting together a whole game,” Lozada-Cabbage said. “We do really well in the third and fourth quarter, but we need to put together a good first and second quarter…that would really help us.”
As for the Hilltoppers Friday, point guard Amber Logan got off to a quick start, hitting a 3-pointer in the first quarter — the only 3 produced by either team Friday — and earning a couple of steals, while Hilltopper forward Kiana Zerr, who was in with a tough crowd near the basket, found it far more productive to cut into the basket from the top of the key and had 10 points in the first half.
Unfortunately, Zerr’s touches were limited in the second half, due in no small part to Los Alamos’ struggles handling the ball in the third quarter.
The Hilltoppers got off just four shots in the quarter and converted just one while committing their 12 turnovers. The Hilltoppers trailed by just 6 to the Demons (17-1, 2-0 in district) at the break, but the 14-3 deficit in the third quarter was too much to bounce back from.
Neither team shot particularly well in the game. The Demons blew several shots in the first half from point-blank range and ended up shooting 42.8 percent for the contest, while Los Alamos hit only 6 field goals in each half and went 12 of 21 from the foul line (57.1 percent).
Zerr was the only Hilltopper in double-figures Friday. McKenzie Logan had 8 points, 7 of those coming in the fourth quarter, and Krista Salazar finished with 7.
Herrera had 11 points, although Los Alamos limited her to 3 field goals.