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Editor’s Note: It was reported late today that the Los Alamos-Sandia Prep basketball game has been postponed. It was also reported that the Los Alamos-Kirtland Central game, scheduled for Saturday, had been postponed until Monday. C team game time is 4 p.m. and the varsity will play at 7 p.m.
The good news for the Los Alamos Hilltopper basketball team is it won’t be facing undue pressure to start the 2013-14 season.
However, the Hilltoppers will have a lot to prove this season and, considering some of their early season games, they won’t have a lot of time for fine-tuning.
Los Alamos opens the season tonight against a very tough Class 3A opponent, Sandia Prep, then has less than a 24-hour turnaround before it goes up against its first Class 4A opponent of the season, Kirtland Central. Both games will be at Griffith Gymnasium.
The Hilltoppers won just once in 27 outings last season and struggled to hang with their opponents in most of those games. They were outscored by an average of nearly 24 points per game and were held to under 50 points in all but four contests.
Points have been at a premium for Los Alamos for the past four years, including the last three under head coach Fil Dominguez.
While Dominguez and Matt King before him preached defense first to their charges, the Hilltoppers haven’t been able to generate the offense they’ve needed to match up.
This season, Los Alamos is starting off guard-heavy and will look to switch up tactics.
“We’re going to try to pick up the tempo a little bit,” Dominguez said. “We’re going to play pressure defense, get up in their grills and play aggressively.”
Los Alamos, whether it wanted to or not, got locked into mostly half-court offense last season and rarely got much going in transition, which is something the team wants to change this season.
Interestingly, its first two opponents may be looking to do just the opposite.
Sandia Prep, which went 21-11 and advanced to the state semifinals in 3A last season, features some tall trees. Sophomore center Will Lucero is listed at 6-foot-6 and sophomore forward Dustin Gaddis is 6-4.
Meanwhile, Kirtland Central features one of the toughest, strongest posts in 4A, Christian Mackey, who’s listed as 6-5, 260 pounds.
Los Alamos certainly won’t be the biggest team out there this season. William Steinkamp is the tallest player on its opening night roster at 6-3.
However, Steinkamp and forward Sidney Ellis, who was injured last season, will be called upon to clog up the middle on defense.
On the offensive side, starting point guard Franklin Archuleta returns for his senior season to run the show.
Dominguez said the team will need production from senior Skyler Veenis, who showed streaky shooting ability as well as the ability to penetrate in the paint.
Veenis was the leading point-producer on the team last season, averaging 10.2 points per game and knocking down a team-high 25 3-pointers. Archuleta was second with 8.4 points per outing.
Seth Drop, another senior guard, was also an effective role-player last season and his ability to drive will also be relied on to generate some points.
Dominguez said he was still juggling his potential starting lineup for tonight but feels his bench goes deeper than it did a year ago.
Following the two openers at home, Los Alamos will hit the road to take on Piedra Vista Nov. 30 for another big Class 4A match-up.
Then, in the first two weeks of December, the Hilltoppers will take on St. Michael’s, last season’s 3A runners-up, Belen and head to the very tough Joe Armijo Invitational at Albuquerque Academy, where it will face 5A Albuquerque High in the opening round and either defending 5A champ Las Cruces or defending 3A champ Hope Christian in the second round.
Of course, all of that comes before Los Alamos opens its very tough District 2-4A schedule Jan. 22 against Bernalillo.
Dominguez said he likes the effort he’s seen from his team both in the off-season and the preseason and hopes that carries over.
“This summer we tasted a little success,” he said. “Last year, as a team we were way too divided. For a lot of guys, this is their senior year. They’re competing harder and they’re way more coachable. They have each other’s backs.”
Fil Dominguez (3rd year)
Franklin Archuleta, guard
Skyler Veenis, guard
Nolan Fox, forward
Sidney Ellis, forward
Seth Drop, guard
Elliott Clay, forward
William Steinkamp, center
Zac Archuleta, guard
Scott Gasway, forward
Nathan Scrimshaw, forward
Jack Stewart, guard
Nov. 22: vs. Sandia Prep, 7 p.m.
Nov. 23: vs. Kirtland Central, 5 p.m.
Nov. 30: at Piedra Vista, 5 p.m.
Dec. 3: vs. Moriarty, 7 p.m.
Dec. 5: at St. Michael’s, 7 p.m.
Dec. 10: vs. Belen, 7 p.m.
Dec. 12: vs. Albuquerque at Joe Armijo Invite, 1:15 p.m.
Dec. 13-14: at Joe Armijo Invite, TBA.
Dec. 26-27: at Poe Corn Invite, TBA.
Jan. 2: at Academy, 3 p.m.
Jan. 4: at Taos, 6 p.m.
Jan. 7: at Pojoaque Valley, 7 p.m.
Jan. 11: vs. Los Lunas, 5 p.m.
Jan. 14: at St. Pius X, 7 p.m.
Jan. 17: vs. Sandia, 7 p.m.
Jan. 22: at Bernalillo, 7 p.m.*
Jan. 25: vs. Santa Fe, 7 p.m.*
Jan. 28: at Española Valley, 7 p.m.*
Jan. 31: vs. Capital, 7 p.m.*
Feb. 8: vs. Bernalillo, 7 p.m.*
Feb. 11: at Santa Fe, 7 p.m.*
Feb. 14: vs. Española Valley, 7 p.m.*
Feb. 19: at Capital, 7 p.m.*