Lady Eagles can’t quite get to taller Hilltoppers in loss

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When the Belen High girls basketball team gets around to facing its tallest District 6-4A opponents, the Lady Eagles will be battle-tested.

News-Bulletin file photo: Belen’s Alexis Holguin protects the ball in a recent game. The Lady Eagles are set to travel to a tournament in Kirtland this week, opening with a 2 p.m. game Thursday against Navajo Pine.

That’s because the Eagles have faced Artesia twice, along with Albuquerque Academy and Los Alamos, facing some of the tallest lineups in Class 4A. Unfortunately, the Eagles haven’t gotten many wins out of the battles, including Saturday’s 50-40 defeat at Los Alamos.

The Eagles (4-6 after Saturday) were set to take on another somewhat tall team, Santa Fe High, after News-Bulletin press time Tuesday. Belen is set to compete in the three-game Webb Toyota Bronco Invite at Kirtland Central High, beginning with a 2 p.m. game Thursday against Class 2A Navajo Pine.

“That was the best we’d played all year, in terms of remaining competitive,” said Belen’s first-year coach, Dereck Atencio, regarding the Los Alamos game. “We scrapped and got loose balls and rebounds for three quarters, but having to outwork a much bigger opponent, that can take its toll.”

The loss was the fifth consecutive defeat for the Eagles, who only got 12 points from their leading scorer, sophomore guard Mariah Forde. Atencio said the Hilltoppers (9-6) made a concerted effort to go after Forde, especially in the second half.

Jordan Rodriguez had a season-high 11 points for the Eagles.

Just before halftime, Forde hit the Eagles’ only 3-pointer of the contest. That cut Los Alamos’ lead to 22-21, and Belen was only down 36-29 after three quarters.

Atencio said his team cut the Los Alamos lead to four points in the fourth quarter.

Belen was forced to be rather physical. The Hilltoppers made more free throws (14) than the Eagles attempted (10).

Los Alamos was led by McKenzie Logan’s 12 points. Erin Kirk, sister of University of New Mexico men’s player Alex Kirk, had 10.

After this week’s Kirtland tournament, the Eagles will be idle until opening the District 6-4A season at Los Lunas High on Tuesday, Jan. 22.


-- Email the author at jbrooks@news-bulletin.com.