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Tough season comes to an end for Hilltoppers

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By Phil Scherer

With a loss in the first round of the District 2-5A tournament, the season has officially ended for the Los Alamos High School girls’ basketball team.

The Hilltoppers, which entered the tournament as the No. 5 seed, traveled to Albuquerque Academy, the No. 4 seed, to begin the tournament, falling 48-40.

This was the fourth meeting of the season between LAHS and the Chargers, with Academy going 2-1 in the regular season. The Hilltoppers won the first meeting in December’s Joe Armijo Tournament 47-35, while the Chargers won both meetings in district play, 45-38 in Albuquerque and 42-38 in overtime in Los Alamos, with every game coming down to the final minutes.

In the early going, the fourth meeting looked much like the first three, with offense coming at a premium and turnovers coming early and often.

The teams combined to connect on only four shots in the first quarter and ended the first eight minutes tied 6-6. LAHS’ only made basket in the quarter came on a 3-pointer from Jenee Montoya.

The offense picked up in the second quarter, as the Hilltoppers made a strong effort to push the ball toward the basket and draw contact. The strategy paid off, as LAHS went to the free-throw line eight times in the quarter, connecting on four of the shots.

Alex Calderon also connected on a 3-pointer for the Hilltoppers, as the team went into halftime trailing the Chargers 19-17.

That was as close as the Hilltoppers got the rest of the night.

After halftime, offense was hard to come by for LAHS, as the Hilltoppers came up with just 3 points in the third quarter.

The Chargers, meanwhile, had no problem finding the bottom of the basket, as Kelsey Crist, the team’s star senior and main inside presence, scored 10 points in the quarter, as Academy jumped out to a 15-point lead.

LAHS’ deficit grew to as many as 18 points in the fourth quarter before the team began a comeback attempt.

Thanks to four 3-pointers, the Hilltoppers got the deficit down to as few as five points on two separate occasions in the final quarter, but could get no closer.

Opportunities to take over the game were there for LAHS, as Academy shot just 7-17 from the free-throw line in the fourth quarter.

However, turnovers continued to be a problem for the Hilltoppers, who ran out of time.

The clock ran out, and Academy claimed a 48-40 victory.

Crist led the way for Academy with 20 points, while Savina Romero scored 9 points of her own.

For the Hilltoppers, Becca Green led the way with 12 points, including a pair of 3-pointers, while seven other players entered the scoring column.

LAHS ends its season with a record of 6-21, and 1-8 in district play.

The finish is identical to last year’s record, though this team had only three seniors, compared to six last year. 

Next season, the team will return the majority of this year’s top contributors, including Green, Natalie Gallegos, Calderon and Montoya, who should all play major factors on next year’s team.