Espanola Finally Wins A Nailbiter

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Española's Kaylee Chavez scored 21 points and sank six three-pointers against Los Alamos in the Lady Sundevils 46-44 victory over the Lady Hilltoppers Feb. 16 in Los Alamos (photo by John McHale).

Española Finally Wins A Nailbiter

By George Morse

The Española Valley High School girls basketball team was finally able to win a close game this season when they held on for a 46-44 victory over Los Alamos High School Feb. 16 in Los Alamos. The score was tied 44-44 with one minute and 20 seconds left in the game. Los Alamos had opportunities to take the lead, but they never did. The Sundevils went ahead 45-44 on a Destiny Valdez free throw with 15.5 seconds left to play and was able to hang on for the victory. It was the first District 2-4A loss for Los Alamos.

Despite 28 points from Los Alamos’ Rebecca (Becca) Green, the same number of points that she scored in Los Alamos’ 69-59 victory over Española Jan. 31 in Española, the Sundevils were able to shut down her supporting cast. Green scored all of Los Alamos’ 16 points in the fourth quarter, but was just 4-of-11 from the free-throw line. As a team, the Hilltoppers sank just four free throws in 17 attempts.

Española looked like they were going to run the Hilltoppers out of the gym in the first quarter. After spotting Los Alamos the game’s first five points, the Sundevils scored 16 unanswered points to lead 16-5 at the end of the first quarter. Kaylee Chavez had a trio of three-pointers for Española. A ball-hawking, half-court defense that intercepted pass after pass by the Hilltoppers led to a couple of layups. Chris Sandoval dropped in a three-pointer at the buzzer for the Sundevils.

Los Alamos chipped away at the lead in the second quarter and stopped turning the ball over. Green had three baskets in the paint, while Michaela Gonzales had a pair of fast-break baskets. Alex Calderon contributed a three-pointer.

Chavez sank another three-pointer for the Sundevils. Kaylinn Martinez banked in a nice runner from the right side and drew a foul for an old-fashioned, three-point play. Española’s sixth three-pointer of the game by Martinez accounted for all of the Sundevils’ scoring in the second quarter. Española led 25-18 at halftime.

The Sundevils only scored four points in the third quarter. Los Alamos made more progress cutting into Española’s lead. A pair of three-pointers by Natalie Gallegos and two baskets by Green made the score 29-28 in favor of the Sundevils heading into the fourth quarter.

Green tied the score with a free throw to start the fourth quarter. With six minutes left in the game, she gave Los Alamos’ their first lead 31-29 since early in the first quarter with a basket in the paint. Two free throws by Green in her next four attempts extended Los Alamos’ lead to 33-30.

Chavez nailed her sixth three-pointer of the game to tie the score 33-33 with 4:35 left in the game.

Green gave the lead back to Los Alamos with a basket in the paint. Martinez put Española back into the lead with a three-pointer. A fast-break layup by Anita DeAguero and two free throws by Chavez completed a 7-0 run by the Sundevils that gave Española a 40-35 lead.

After two baskets by Green the Hilltoppers were within a point of tying the game. A nice reverse layup by DeAguero and a pair of free throws by Miranda Salazar gave Española a 44-41 lead with 1:29 left to play.  Green tied the score 44-44 nine seconds later with an old-fashioned, three-point play.

With 30.5 seconds left in the game, Martinez missed two free throws that could have given Española the lead. Green could have given the Hilltoppers the lead, but missed two free throws with 18 seconds left. With 15.5 seconds remaining in the game, Valdez finally broke the stalemate, sinking a free throw to give Española a 45-44 lead.

Calderon dribbled downcourt and pulled up for a 15-footer that was off the mark. In the ensuing battle for the rebound, a jump ball was called. The possession arrow pointed in favor of the Sundevils.

Chavez was fouled and went to the free-throw line. She sank one of her attempts with 3.1 seconds left. Los Alamos couldn’t get a shot off and Española hung on for the victory.

Chavez led the Sundevils with 21 points, including her six three-pointers. Martinez added 10 points for the Sundevils.

Española improved to 4-3 in District 2-4A. Despite the victory, the Sundevils can finish no better than third in the District 2-4A regular season standings. It has been a tough season for the Sundevils. They are 13-10 overall and five of their losses have been by four points or less. The most recent was a heart-breaking 53-52 overtime loss to District 2-4A rival Pojoaque Valley High School Feb. 8 at Pojoaque. The Elkettes and Hilltoppers are tie for first in District 2-4A, each with a 6-1 record.

Española needs to make a run during the District 2-4A tournament to help its position come seeding time for the 16 teams that will advance to the Class 4A state basketball tournament. The Sundevils finish the regular season Friday hosting District 2-4A cellar dweller Taos High School, who has yet to win a game in District 2-4A and is just 2-19 overall.

“One game at a time,” Española Coach Joe Estrada said.

​Española's Miranda Salazar dribbles around Los Alamos' Natalie Gallegos in Española's victory over the Lady Hilltoppers (photo by John McHale).