LA falls at home to Española Valley

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By Mike Cote

With just one game remaining in the first half of the District 2-4A regular season, the Los Alamos Hilltopper boys basketball team continues to struggle.
Los Alamos, desperately seeking a victory to get some momentum going into its final five games of the year, was trounced in the second half against the always-tough Española Valley Sundevils.
Española Valley executed a swarming full-court press in the second half that led to a dozen Hilltopper turnovers and some gimme baskets on the other end of the floor.
The Sundevils broke open what had been a tight ballgame in the second half to win going away, 58-34.
To avoid dropping to 0-4 with just 4 games remaining, Los Alamos will have just three days to prepare for Capital, which had been tabbed as the team to beat in 2-4A this season.
Bernalillo, Santa Fe and Española Valley are all speedy teams and that speed served to give Los Alamos trouble. Española Valley’s press, in particular, gave Los Alamos fits.
“It’s honestly the first press that’s bothered us,” Los Alamos head coach Fil Dominguez said. “We lost our focus. We’ve got to make quick decisions against the press. Are they 25 points better than us? I don’t think they are.”
The two teams played even for the first half. Los Alamos (1-18) limited a powerful Española Valley offense — one of the top-scoring squads in 4A — to just 10 points in the first quarter and 8 points in the second quarter.
But in the first half, the Hilltoppers couldn’t find the basket. The Hilltoppers misfired on 5 uncontested shots from 10 feet or closer. To add to their frustrations, the Hilltoppers were soundly defeated on the boards, thanks in no small part to Española Valley’s 6-foot-6 center John Cotton.
Hilltopper Skyler Veenis, who has become one of the team’s go-to players on offense, had 11 points in the second half. But Veenis, who was 5-for-8 from the field, was one of Los Alamos’ few offensive bright spots, as no other Hilltopper had more than 3 points in the final two quarters.
For Española Valley (15-6, 2-1 in 2-4A), Cotton and Nathan Cordova had 12 points to lead all scorers. Cordova had three 3-pointers and Cotton had a rim-rattling slam dunk in the second quarter.