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The quick start by the Los Alamos Hilltopper boys basketball team Saturday night couldn’t be sustained against a barrage from the perimeter by the Piedra Vista Panthers.
Los Alamos started its home opener on an 8-0 run, but that lead all but evaporated by the end of the quarter and just four minutes into the second quarter, it was the Panthers who were well in control of the contest.
Piedra Vista hit 20 field goals, 10 of those free 3-point range as it spoiled Los Alamos’ 2012-13 home opener, winning 66-42.
Jacob Armijo, who came off the bench in the first quarter, hit three 3-pointers in the third quarter and finished with a game-high 17 points to lead the Panthers to the win.
Armijo made some tough shots from the perimeter, but also took advantage of the Hilltopper defense’s slow rotation out.
“That’s the sign of a young team right now,” Hilltopper head coach Fil Dominguez said. “But we’re definitely getting better. I told the kids after the game that was a team that would’ve beat us by 60 points this summer.”
Through its first three games, Los Alamos (0-3) has been able to keep pace with the three teams it has faced — it lost Friday night at Sandia Prep and its opener Nov. 20 at Kirtland Central — for at least two quarters, but one disastrous quarter seemed to do the Hilltoppers in.
Saturday night, that quarter was the second quarter in which Los Alamos was outscored 22-6.
Along with Armijo’s 11 points in the quarter, Steven Ty Jacquez dropped in seven of his nine first half points, including another 3-pointer.
The Panthers’ hot shooting from the perimeter forced the Hilltoppers to change up what they were doing.
“We switched defenses accommodate. We went from man to zone,” Los Alamos center Travis Richins said. “It’s a different type of defense and we didn’t handle it very well.”
The 22-6 push in the second quarter by Piedra Vista (2-1) put it up 32-20 at the break. With the game well in the Panthers’ control, both teams emptied their benches in the fourth quarter.
To open the contest, Los Alamos hit four straight buckets and forced three Piedra Vista turnovers. Franklin Archuleta connected three times in a row and Richins dropped in a fourth basket on a nice cut from the wing to the rim.
Piedra Vista would come right back, however, with a 10-1 run to take a brief lead before a Skyler Veenis 3-pointer.
Veenis tried to counter Piedra Vista’s showing from long range. Veenis knocked down 3 3-pointers and finished with 9 points, second on team behind Richins’ 12.
Heading into a very meaty part of their schedule, the Hilltoppers are still looking to break the 50-point barrier, something they’ve done only six times in the past two-plus seasons.
Jacquez finished with 15 points in the game for Piedra Vista, which lost a day earlier to San Juan of Blanding, Utah.
Dominguez said Los Alamos’ upcoming schedule — which includes a trip to the Joe Armijo Invitational in 11 days, a tournament that features a brutal lineup — will only make his team better.
“Right now with these kids, they aren’t quitting,” he said. “In that fourth quarter they were still battling. Things are starting to fall into place, but our mantra has been, no quit, no quit, no quit.”
Sandia Prep 67, Los Alamos 45
The Hilltoppers got into an early hole and weren’t able to dig themselves out against Sandia Prep’s Sundevils Friday night.
Sandia Prep outscored Los Alamos 20-7 in the opening quarter. Los Alamos hung close with the Sundevils in the second and third quarters, but the Sundevils used a big 23-point fourth quarter to put the game away.
For the second time in as many outings, Franklin Archuleta scored nine points for Los Alamos. Travis Richins led the team with 13 points and had 8 rebounds. Simon Heath had a team-high 9 rebounds.