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It was a bit of a dangerous game for the Los Alamos Hilltopper boys basketball team in many ways Saturday.
The Hilltoppers took on the Santa Fe Prep Blue Griffins in an afternoon contest at Griffith Gymnasium. Santa Fe Prep is a solid Class 2A school with some bruising post players inside.
Along with the physicality, the game was one that Los Alamos had virtually nothing to gain and everything to lose. A Class 4A team should defeat a Class 2A team, the conventional wisdom among the basketball playoff selection committees, but if the Class 2A team pulls off a win, the 4A team’s playoff stock can drop like a rock.
Fortunately for the Hilltoppers, they put their best quarter of the ballgame together when they had to. Nick Baker dropped in 13 of his game-high 17 points in the final quarter as Los Alamos earned a 48-41 victory.
“All week long I told the kids not to underestimate (Santa Fe Prep) just because they’re a 2A team,” Los Alamos head coach Fil Dominguez said. “They’re a good basketball team.”
Baker, who has been one of the Hilltoppers’ most steady players for the last two seasons, didn’t miss a shot from the floor in the final eight minutes. His putback layup with 6:12 remaining in the game gave Los Alamos a 35-30 lead, and his 3-pointer 20 seconds later put the Hilltoppers up 38-30, their biggest lead of the game at that time.
It was a big game for the senior, who not only grabbed 13 rebounds, but also helped run an effective pick-and-roll in the second half. Had Los Alamos shot better from the floor — it missed eight layups — the game’s outcome might not have been in doubt as long as it was.
Santa Fe Prep (10-3), which sported a big presence inside, made things tough throughout for Los Alamos, while its point guard, Ryan Evaldson, knocked down three 3-pointers in the game to help complement its offense.
Evaldson finished with 13 points to lead the Blue Griffins.
Los Alamos struggled to pull away from Santa Fe Prep despite mostly solid defense.
Santa Fe Prep only put together one scoring run, an 11-3 burst in the second quarter to take a brief 22-20 lead with 2:00 remaining.
Thomas Russell, who hurt his ankle Tuesday night against Volcano Vista, had 14 points for the Hilltoppers while Nate Carver finished with eight points.