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After scoring just one field goal in a more than five minute stretch in the first quarter, Los Alamos Hilltopper Thomas Russell sparked his team in the second quarter.
Russell dropped in 10 straight points in the second quarter to rally the Hilltoppers over the Belen Eagles’ boys basketball team Tuesday night.
Meanwhile, the Hilltopper defense was stout throughout the contest, holding Belen to single-digit scoring in three quarters to win 46-33.
The win was an important one for the Hilltoppers, who not only topped a Class 4A opponent and snapping a three-game losing streak, but to give them some momentum heading into a very tough three-day tournament at Albuquerque Academy (see page 7).
“The first half we were a little patient,” Los Alamos first-year head coach Fil Dominguez said. “In the second half, we played ball our way. We were patient and we executed good shots. We had good quality shots in the second half.”
Los Alamos (2-2) actually trailed 9-8 after one period against Belen (1-2). Belen was executing its offense fairly well throughout the opening half but misfired on several open shot attempts, hitting just 3 of 9 from the field.
The Hilltoppers fared no better, however. Only a pair of 3-pointers by Nate Carver, the final one at the buzzer from NBA range, as well as Belen’s struggles to convert, kept the Hilltoppers close.
But in the second period, after a quiet first period, Russell caught fire early.
Russell scored 10 points in just over three minutes, hitting both from inside and outside.
His 3-pointer at the 4:59 mark gave the Hilltoppers a 15-11 lead.
Russell was one of three Hilltoppers to finish in double-digits scoring Tuesday, picking up a team-high 14 points. Carver finished with 11 points and Baker scored 10, eight of those coming in the second half to help Los Alamos pull away.
Baker’s biggest contribution of the night came on defense, however. Baker, a guard was tasked with guarding Belen’s 6-4 post Zachary Martin, but against Martin used several different techniques, from fronting him to forcing him under the basket on drives, to slow him down.
Martin still finished with a game-high 17 points, but had just six points in the first half while Los Alamos was busy trying to get its offense on track.
Point production still isn’t where Los Alamos wants it to be, however. After scoring 62 points in its season-opening win over Kirtland Central, Los Alamos hasn’t cracked the 50-point mark again this season, turning in a season low 29 points against a short-handed St. Michael’s squad Nov. 30.
Los Alamos will need that number to improve, as it starts District 2-4A play in just over a month where it will face teams like Española Valley and Bernalillo, teams capable of scoring a lot of points in a short period of time.
Nevertheless, Los Alamos improved to 2-1 against 4A competition.
Salvador Salaiz scored seven of his nine points in the fourth quarter as the Hilltoppers outscored the Eagles 15-8 to put the contest away. For the Eagles, no one but Martin finished with more than three points.
Los Alamos 46, Belen 33
Belen 9 6 10 8—33
Los Alamos 8 12 11 15—46
Belen — Zachary Martin 7-17 3-3 17, Colton Lewis 0-7 1-2 1, Raymond Montoya 1-7 0-0 3, Anthony Anzara 1-4 0-0 2, Cy Martinez 0-0 0-0 0, Nicholas Kurtz 0-3 0-0 0, Jesse Gonzales, 1-1 0-0 3, Shawn Strain 1-2 0-0 2, Thomas Cordova 1-1 0-0 3, Martin Narro 1-1 0-0 2. Totals 13-43 4-5 33.
Los Alamos — Thomas Russell 5-10 3-4 14, Nate Carver 3-8 2-2 11, Nick Baker 3-9 4-6 10, Salvador Salaiz 4-5 0-0 9, Xavier Dennison 0-0 0-0 0, Daniel Salazar 0-4 2-3 2, Skyler Veenis 0-1 0-0 0, Franklin Archuleta 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 15-38 11-15 46.
3-point goals — Belen 3-14 (Gonzales 1-1, Cordova 1-1, Montoya 1-5, Lewis 0-3, Kurtz 0-2, Martin 0-1, Anzara 0-1), LA 5-14 (Carver 3-6, Salaiz 1-2, Russell 1-3, Salazar 0-2, Veenis 0-1). Total fouls — Belen 17, LA 10. Fouled out — None. Technicals — None.