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JACONA – With about 10 minutes to go, the Los Alamos Hilltopper boys basketball team was in a position to make a run at the Pojoaque Valley Elks.
Two minutes later, the game for the Hilltoppers was all but over.
Los Alamos trailed by just 9 points after a well executed bucket by Skyler Veenis on a nice entry pass from Franklin Archuleta, that coming at the 2:01 mark of the third quarter.
But things began to unravel for the Hilltoppers immediately.
They would surrender 12 points in the next two minutes, mostly off turnovers in the backcourt, and manage just five points for the rest of the game in a 58-25 loss at Ben Lujan Gymnasium.
Los Alamos made just one shot from the floor in the second half and none in the fourth quarter as Pojoaque Valley’s guards stepped in front of pass after pass late in the game to force 11 Hilltopper turnovers in the final 10 minutes.
The loss Tuesday night spoiled the debut of new head coach Mike Kluk, who took over Monday for Fil Dominguez after Dominguez abruptly resigned.
“We quit coming to the ball,” said Kluk of the inauspicious finish of the Hilltoppers Tuesday. “They were coming to the ball hard and we weren’t coming hard. Once they lost that momentum, it was hard to get it back.”
Kluk said he didn’t have unrealistic expectations taking over the reins of the team. He knew the Hilltoppers need to do a lot of work to salvage the season.
Fortunately, Los Alamos will still have a chance to do that when the district season opens up in two weeks.
The teams in 2-4A are struggling, including the only team in the district with a winning record, Española Valley, which after a loss at Taos Tuesday has now dropped four straight.
But the 25 points scored by the Hilltoppers was their worst offensive output of the season. It wasn’t for a lack of decent looks, either, but the Hilltoppers couldn’t convert several open mid-range jumpers.
Los Alamos (1-13) converted just15.6 percent of its shots from the floor.
On the other end, the Hilltoppers had a decent defensive night, holding the Elks to just 29 points until the wheels fell off late in the third quarter. The Elks managed only 7 first half field goals, four of those coming from reserve guard Chris Martinez, who had 11 of his game-high 13 points in the opening half.
Martinez connected on a pair of 3-pointers in the first half, the only 3s for the Elks (6-5) up to that point.
John Ainsworth was one of the big beneficiaries of the Hilltoppers’ backcourt turnovers late in the game and he finished with 12 points
The Elks snapped a three-game skid with Tuesday’s win.
For Los Alamos, Seth Drop had six points while Veenis and Archuleta finished with five.