LA’s upset bid falls short vs. Goddard

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Boys basketball: ’Toppers lead most of the way but Rockets come back late

By The Staff

The Los Alamos Hilltopper boys basketball team came within eight minutes of pulling off one of the biggest upsets in state championship history.
Instead, though, the top-seeded Goddard Rockets survived to move on the Class 4A playoffs.
Los Alamos led by as many as nine points with about four minutes remaining in the third quarter of the first round playoff game at Goddard, 32-23, but its offense stalled the rest of the way and it gave up some ill-timed turnovers late.
Goddard, meanwhile, led by 6-foot-5 forward Lane Vander Hulst and point guard Chase Salazar, made some key buckets in the second half to give the team a 54-48 victory.
It was the second time the two teams had met during the season and in both Los Alamos played well in the first half only to have Goddard come back in the second half.
The Hilltoppers got big buckets by Nick Baker and Nate Carver in the opening half and led by three points at the break. In the third quarter, Bobby Sanders, who had a big game rebounding for the Hilltoppers, dropped in a third-chance layup to give the Hilltoppers a nine-point edge.
Unfortunately, the Rockets regrouped and were able to get the ball inside, drawing 11 fouls in the second half. In the ballgame, the Rockets were 19-for-26 from the free throw line.
After the Hilltoppers took their third quarter lead, the Rockets went on a 20-5 run that extended for better than a full quarter to take control.
Since going to a 16-team playoff format in 2007, a No. 16 team had never beaten a No. 1. Goddard (25-2) has been No. 1 in the state for much of the 2011-12 season.
The game was the finale for the Hilltoppers, who finish the season 11-18.
Nick Baker finished with 15 points, tying Salazar for the high-point total of the contest. Carver and Thomas Russell both finished with 10 points.
Vander Hulst had 14 points to help the Rockets escape with the victory.
The senior-heavy Hilltoppers will lose several key players, including Baker, Russell, Carver, Sanders, Daniel Salazar and Salvador Salaiz.

Special thanks to KRSN AM 1490 for its help with this report.