Turnovers doom Hilltoppers in Pojoaque

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By Phil Scherer

The Los Alamos High School girls basketball team could not escape the full-court pressure of the Pojoaque Valley Elkettes at the top of Saturday’s game, and it set the tone for the entire contest.

Pojoaque Valley High School, a longtime rival of LAHS in girls basketball, harassed the Hilltopper offense throughout the first half, forcing 11 turnovers in the first quarter alone.

And while Pojoaque Valley wasn’t great at converting those chances on the other end of the court, it was good enough to open a big lead early and coast through the rest of the game. The Elkettes cruised to a 60-27 victory at Ben Lujan Gymnasium.

The Hilltoppers (2-1), who started out the season with wins over Farmington High School and St. Michael’s High School, was held scoreless for more than seven minutes to start Saturday’s game and never recovered.

Neither team converted from the field for most of the first quarter, but Pojoaque Valley (3-0) was deadly from the foul line in the first half, and continued that into the second half.

In the first half, the Elkettes made good on 10 of 12 attempts.

Those free throws proved to be key for Pojoaque Valley, as the team missed wide-open shots throughout the evening despite being handed possession by LAHS over and over.

The Elkettes led 14-2 after one quarter and went up by as many as 22 midway through the second, all but sealing the game before the teams headed into the locker rooms for halftime.

LAHS hit a couple of 3-pointers in the second quarter, one by Alex Calderon, the team’s leading scorer in a win earlier last week against St. Michael’s, and one by Katey Green, but it was too little, too late.

Although the Hilltoppers began to deal with the press better in the second half, committing fewer than 10 turnovers in the last two quarters, the deficit was too large to overcome.

Calderon once again led LAHS in scoring Saturday, finishing with 7 points, while Green had 6 points and center Rebecca Green finished with 5 points.

Calderon is becoming a go-to player for head coach Josh Archuleta’s Hilltoppers, as she has played well in every game so far this season.

Initially, Los Alamos tried to work the ball inside to its bigger players but rarely got an open passing lane – the Elkettes got at least a hand on the ball in every one of the Hilltoppers’ possessions in the first half.

The Hilltoppers managed to get just six shots off in the entire first quarter.

Taylor Roybal finished with 14 points for the Elkettes to lead all scorers.

She was one of three Elkettes in double-figures Saturday, along with Dallas Archibald and Michaela Martinez.

It has been a strong start to the season for Pojoaque Valley, which opened the year with a convincing 50-32 victory over LAHS’ District 2-5A rival Capital High School.

In that game, the Elkettes forced 40 turnovers using a similar style they played Saturday evening against the Hilltoppers.

The Hilltoppers will return to the court Thursday evening at home against Belen High School at 7 p.m. Last season, LAHS defeated Belen 35-25 in Belen for one of the team’s six total wins.