'Toppers struggle in 2nd half vs. Horsemen

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Girls basketball: Each finishes with 10 points but LA falls 52-46

By Mike Cote

SANTA FE — At the start of Tuesday’s contest, everything seemed to be clicking for the Los Alamos Hilltopper girls basketball team.
But the St. Michael’s Horsemen whittled away a 14-point second quarter Hilltopper advantage as the Hilltoppers got into foul trouble and went ice cold at the foul line.
Los Alamos managed just six points in the third quarter and St. Mike’s, which had been inconsistent on offense got hot in the fourth quarter.
St. Mike’s used a 22-point final quarter to earn a 52-46, come-from-behind victory over Los Alamos at Perez-Shelley Gymnasium.
The game was the season opener for the Hilltoppers.
It was a disappointing finish to what had been a promising start Tuesday night. Los Alamos went 11 of 19 from the field in the first half and seven of the eight players it put on the floor in the opening half scored.
But the Hilltoppers piled on the fouls early — the Horsemen (1-0) were in the bonus less than a minute into the second period — something that would come back to haunt the Hilltoppers in the third quarter.
Los Alamos head coach Tarah Logan, starting her fifth season with the girls basketball program, liked most of what she saw out of her team, but said her team needs to learn to work better when starters go to the bench.
“Overall, I saw a lot of good things in the first half,” Logan said. “I saw potential for what we could be, but it’s going to be about striking a balance.”
Hilltopper 6-foot junior Hayley Each had a strong start, dropping in seven points in the first half, and junior Marissa Larribas had five first half points, making use of some impressive low post moves.
But both Each and Larribas were hit with three personal fouls by the half and had to sit out the final part of the second quarter. Both players were on the floor to start the third quarter, but both were tagged with quick fouls and had to sit out the bulk of the quarter.
With two of Los Alamos’ three big girls out, St. Mike’s got a pretty good interior passing game going. Alex Greenwald scored eight of her game-high 13 points with Larribas out and Each’s defense hampered with four personal fouls.
To make matters worse, Los Alamos simply couldn’t convert from the free throw line. The Hilltoppers, who hit 5 of 7 attempts from the stripe in the first half, shot a chilly 4 of 15 after the break.
St. Mike’s actually shot worse from the foul line (38.5 percent against 41.0 percent), but Greenwald converted two big free throws late in the fourth quarter to help seal the victory for the Horsemen.
St. Mike’s also got 13 points from guard Christina Gabaldon. Gabaldon and Viola Pelos nailed big 3-pointers in the fourth quarter, with Gabaldon’s 3-ball tying the game with 7:14 remaining.
The Horsemen took their first lead of the game with 6:55 left and would never relinquish it.
For the Hilltoppers, point guard Amber Logan finished with 9 points. Starting forward Erin Kirk had 6 points and guard Kiana Zerr had 6 coming off the bench.
Logan said Los Alamos will have to improve its press break — after a decent showing against the Horsemen’s pressure in the first half, the Hilltoppers committed 11 turnovers in the third quarter.
“We were fine once we got to our half-court set, but we struggled against the press,” she said. “We’ll be working a whole bunch on that.
The Hilltoppers have their home opener scheduled for Friday night against Pojoaque.