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In trying to get on the right path following a 1-win season, there is still a ways to go for the Los Alamos Hilltopper boys basketball team.
And while there were some missteps in their first two games, the Hilltoppers might be finding some footing.
Los Alamos showed some things fans hadn’t seen for several years, including some semblance of a transition game, Tuesday night in its home opener against Moriarty. Los Alamos scored some transition buckets and moved the ball more effectively than it did for much of last season on offense.
However, the Hilltoppers offensive performance still wasn’t where the team needed it to be. Los Alamos scored just 17 field goals on the night and just six in the first half as it fell to Moriarty 49-40.
The Hilltoppers set themselves up with decent looks against the Pinto defense much of the contest, but converted only 33.3 percent.
Defensively, Los Alamos had a much better showing than it did in its opener Saturday against Piedra Vista, when it surrendered 82 points.
Los Alamos head coach Fil Dominguez said that lackluster performance came because the Hilltoppers weren’t communicating effectively on that end, but thought the communication improved considerably Tuesday.
Where Los Alamos wasn’t as effective on that side of the court was with its discipline. Los Alamos committed 22 fouls in the contest and Moriarty, a good-shooting team from the free throw line, was in the bonus early in both the second and fourth quarters.
The Pintos took full advantage, converting on 20 of 24 attempts from the stripe – all four of their misses were by the same player, Garrett Wolf.
Moriarty (3-1) gave Los Alamos some match-up problems heading in, not the least of which being 6-foot-8 sophomore Jake Flaming.
Los Alamos’ tallest player, William Steinkamp, was matched up with Flaming throughout the bulk of the contest. Steinkamp contained Flaming for three quarters, but Flaming got hot in the second quarter, dropping in 12 points.
Flaming finished with a game-high 20 points and was a perfect 6 of 6 from the foul line, along with throwing down a big putback dunk in the fourth quarter that put the Pintos up 34-31 after Los Alamos took a short-lived 31-27 edge late in the third quarter.
Aside for converting from the floor, Los Alamos (0-2) did much of what it needed to do on the offensive end. Los Alamos only turned the ball over 8 times in the game and got the ball inside, even hitting some tough shots against Flaming near the basket.
Shooting guard Seth Drop, who actually didn’t start the game but came in very early in the first quarter, scored 14 points, all in the second half and eight of those coming in the third as Los Alamos came back from a 6-point deficit at the half.
Drop was one of three Hilltoppers in double-figures. Steinkamp had 11 points and Skyler Veenis added 10, but only two other Hilltoppers got into the scoring column on the night.
Despite the improved effort — Los Alamos lost its opener at Piedra Vista by 29 points — the Hilltoppers have still dropped 17 games in a row, their last win coming against Taos in early January.
Their upcoming schedule will be challenging, too. They face St. Michael’s Thursday night in Santa Fe and are back home next Tuesday against Class 4A Belen, a small team but one with many returning players.