Spartans outgun LA in second half to win 67-59

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Boys basketball: LA misses out on shot to improve its place in 2-4A standings

By Mike Cote

In what was probably the biggest game of its season to date, the Los Alamos Hilltopper boys basketball team had a chance to reverse its fortunes in a hurry Saturday night.
Los Alamos could’ve made a big splash in the District 2-4A standings if it could’ve pulled off an upset against the Bernalillo Spartans. Los Alamos’ upset prospects looked good after the first half at Griffith Gymnasium Saturday, taking a 30-26 lead into the locker room, but the Spartans bounced back in a big way in the third quarter.
The Spartans outscored the Hilltoppers 20-8 in the third quarter and survived a comeback attempt in the fourth quarter to take a 67-59 decision.
With a chance to move into a third-place tie and set up a potential match for second place in the 2-4A standings, however, the Hilltoppers’ loss puts the team into the district basement with just three games to play.
After a loss to Santa Fe and a too-close-for-comfort win against Española Valley, the Spartans (15-8 overall, 3-2 in 2-4A)  looked vulnerable heading into the game, while the Hilltoppers were coming off one of their most decisive wins of the season Tuesday.
But with the contest’s outcome very much in doubt, Bernalillo guard Brandon Saiz nailed 8 of 10 free throws in the final quarter to seal the deal.
In the first half, Thomas Russell hit a pair of 3-pointers and Salvador Salaiz nailed another from long-range with just two seconds left to give the Hilltoppers the edge at the half.
But Los Alamos (8-15, 1-4), which struggled with foul trouble all night, lost Russell and his team-high 17 points just over a minute into the fourth quarter. Salaiz hit a big 3 less than a minute later, putting Los Alamos within two points, but the team would never get closer.
Nick Baker had 13 points Saturday for Los Alamos, while Nate Carver finished with nine. Saiz had 25 points and Allen Rodriguez added 15.