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SANTA FE — Straight off the heels of its biggest game of the season, the Los Alamos Hilltopper boys basketball team had a shot at getting a share of the early District 2AAAA lead.
Instead, the Hilltoppers again struggled to find their offensive rhythm and dropped its second district contest of the season.
Orland Echave, Santa Fe’s bull-like 6-foot-5 center, dropped in 23 points on the offensive end of the floor and stymied the Hilltoppers’ attempts to get inside on the other end as the Demons topped the Hilltoppers 51-38 at Toby Roybal Memorial Gymnasium.
The Demons, whom Los Alamos head coach Matt King said could be a legitimate threat to win a 2AAAA title this season, dropped their district opener at Española Valley 62-61, a game that the Demons led until the waning seconds.
But Santa Fe, on the shoulders of Echave’s big night, controlled Saturday night’s contest throughout.
Los Alamos (5-15 overall, 1-1 in 2AAAA) had some chances to score easy buckets Saturday, but rushed or short-armed several shots from the baseline. Los Alamos converted on 15 of 36 chances from the floor.
Travis Richins, who was matched up man-on-man with Echave most of the night, led Los Alamos with eight points. Daniel Salazar, who had a solid night for the Hilltoppers coming off the bench, finished with seven points, as did Thomas Russell.
For a good portion of Saturday’s contest, Santa Fe used a trapping, pressure zone defense, very similar to the one the Bernalillo Spartans employed Wednesday night with limited success against Los Alamos. While Santa Fe’s defense was a little more effective than Bernalillo’s version, Los Alamos was still able to get some people open.
Those that were open, however, often were denied the ball by Echave and the Santa Fe interior defense or missed shots.
Los Alamos trailed by 15 early on in the fourth quarter, but made a run at Santa Fe to cut the lead down to seven with 2:23 remaining. Salazar and Bobby Sanders connected on 3s in back-to-back Hilltopper possessions to pare the Santa Fe lead down.
But again, Echave came back to answer. The big man hit 8 of 9 free throws in the final period to ice the contest.
Also for the Demons, guard Nick Martinez finished with seven points.