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Weekend sports: LA, Pojoaque boys meet Saturday in a rematch of Ben Lujan hoops semifinal

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By Mike Cote

Play it again, Sam.

Hilltopper head coach Alan Kirk said nothing would please him more than a packed house Saturday when the boys varsity basketball team meets Pojoaque in round two of a long standing rivalry.

That game highlights a busy sports weekend for Los Alamos teams. The Hilltopper girls basketball team will entertain Farmington Friday night, the Topper swimming and diving teams will be in Santa Fe and the Topper wrestling team travels to Albuquerque Academy.

Boys basketball

Los Alamos will get a second crack at the Pojoaque Elks Saturday, this time on its home floor.

This will be the second meeting between the two schools this season, the first coming in the semifinal round of the Ben Lujan Invitational Dec. 21. Pojoaque came away with a 52-50 win to advance to its own tournament championship game, where it routed Marin Catholic (Calif.) 77-58.

In the first meeting between the two squads, Los Alamos was up by eight at the break, but Pojoaque rallied to tie the game in the third quarter. Pojoaque would take a 51-47 lead with five seconds remaining before Los Alamos center Alex Kirk banked a 3-pointer off the glass to slice the margin to one point.

However, Los Alamos wouldnt get off another shot before the buzzer sounded.

The loss was just the second of the season for the Hilltoppers, who picked up three straight wins following that game, including the next night against Socorro in the tournaments third-place game.

Los Alamos (10-4) has dropped its two most recent contests, those coming against District 2AAAA rival Capital in the finals of Roswells Poe Corn Invitational that game doesnt factor into the 2AAAA standings and Tuesdays loss to Class AAAAA Highland.

Los Alamos, which struggled on both ends of the floor against Highland, was without star guard Nik Allen, who sat out with a finger injury on his non-shooting hand. Los Alamos head coach Alan Kirk said he would probably try to have Allen go in practice for the rest of the week and see how his finger felt on Saturday.

Following Saturdays game the first home game for the Hilltoppers since their second game of the season Nov. 30 the Toppers will host defending Class AAAA champion St. Pius X Tuesday and Class AAAAA Del Norte Friday and Farmington the following night.

Los Alamos opens 2AAAA play at Taos Jan. 23.

Pojoaque, meanwhile, will be gearing up for the start of its own district schedule. District 2AAA could be the toughest one in the state with two-time defending champ St. Michaels still the team to beat.

The Elks, with offensive star Ryan Gonzales who finished with 20 points in the Dec. 21 game, a moderate total for him may be well-positioned to give St. Mikes a run for its money, however.

Going into a game tonight against Socorro, the Elks (11-2) had won seven of their last eight contests, the loss being a 2-point decision against St. Pius in the finals of the Stu Clark Tournament in Las Vegas.

Wrestling

Los Alamos has kept busy the past two weeks, but had an unexpected day off of practice due to Mondays snowstorm.

Saturdays meet at Albuquerque Academy will be the third outing for the Hilltopper grapplers in the past 10 days, and that tournament, a singles bracket tournament, could be tough.

It wont be an easy one, Hilltopper head coach Eric Sorenson said. With four (Class) AAAAA schools, itll be tough competition.

Scheduled to make an appearance at Saturdays event are Albuquerque High, La Cueva, Rio Grande and Valley, all AAAAA schools. Bernalillo, Los Alamos district foe, is also slate to appear, as well as Bataan Military and the host Chargers.

Sorenson was pleased with his teams effort at its most recent outing, the Los Lunas Invitational duals tournament, last weekend.

Despite being able to field only five wrestlers for the event not enough to have any shot at upsetting larger teams Los Alamos won 14 of 20 head-to-head bouts.

This week, I think we just want to keep the momentum going and not backslide, Sorenson said. We want to make a little more progress toward the state tournamentWe keep that intensity up, we should do fine.

The Los Lunas meet came just three days after a rough outing for Los Alamos at a triangular hosted by Bernalillos Spartans. Not only did the Hilltoppers struggle in that even, they were hit with injuries to Eric Neff and Kory Nelson.

Neff, who hurt his neck, is back and ready to go. Nelson, who suffered an ankle injury, will sit out Saturday.

Sorenson said Nelson is recovering well, however, and could be back to practice as early as Monday, although he might not yet be ready to go full-speed.

A pair of wrestlers who missed the early part of the season will join the squad this week, however. Paul Martinez will make his debut at 112 pounds and Marshall Naranjo will go at 145 pounds for Los Alamos.

Girls basketball

To say that Farmington is struggling this season is something of an understatement.

Farmington, which not long ago was a regular in the state tournament, is batting .000 for the season so far. It has dropped all 13 of its contests so far in 2007-08.

Hilltopper head coach Gerry Washburn knows better than to look past the Scorpions, however, who have played his squad tough in the past.

I really dont know a lot about Farmington, he said. Theyre struggling, but theyre from the Four Corners, so they have kids that can handle the ball. They can shoot the 3.

Los Alamos had won three straight contests prior to Wednesdays loss against St. Michaels. It wasnt in that game offensively until the final seven minutes of regulation when things finally came to life.

What Im hoping is well carry the way we played in the fourth quarter (Wednesday) in the first quarter of that game, Washburn said.

Despite the goose egg in the win column, Farmington has managed to keep close with a few teams this season, including Class AAAAA Oate and Los Alamos District 2AAAA rival Capital.

However, the Scorpions have been on the short end of their share of routs this season as well. Gallups Tigers and St. Pius Sartans have been among the teams that have taken the Scorpions to the woodshed in recent weeks.

Swimming and diving

Following what will be a low-key affair for most of the Hilltoppers top swimmers, the water will start to get a little warmer.

Los Alamos will be at the St. Michaels Invitational Saturday for a meet in which Los Alamos head coach Bev Leasure plans to sit most of her varsity swimmers.

The decision not only gives her squad a break but allows her younger swimmers a chance to face varsity competition. Only a few of the teams varsity swimmers, most of whom are on the bubble as far as qualifying for state in certain events, will be in action.

Although Leasure said shed love for her sub-varsity swimmers to have solid showings Saturday, shes focusing most of her energy at strategizing for the teams meet next week.

Los Alamos will travel to Albuquerque to compete in the Academy Invitational. Not only is that meet significant in that many of the top teams in the Albuquerque area will be present, not the least of which being the host Chargers, but Academy is also the site of the state championship swim meet, which will be held Feb. 22-23.

The Hilltoppers hosted three other squads Saturday, taking first in girls competition and fourth in boys competition.

In that meet, coming immediately after a tough winter break training schedule, Los Alamos girls still earned an impressive win they had a victory margin of 52 points over second-place Eldorado despite times that were generally slower than they had previously swum.

Alisa Romero had one of the most impressive showings of the day, making the state meet qualifying time in the 200-yard individual medley with just two-hundredths of a second to spare.

Im definitely not an IMer, Romero said after the race, despite being more than a little relieved she made her mark.

In boys competition, the Toppers still grabbed a respectable 114 points, getting edged out for third by Albuquerque Highs 117.5 points.

Individually, the boys times were generally comparable to times theyd posted pre-winter break.

Dylan Lake had one of the top showings of the day, winning the 500 freestyle and earning a state qualifying time in the 100 butterfly.

Los Alamos girls have won three of the four events theyve competed in this season, their only loss coming to La Cueva in the Albuquerque Public Schools meet Dec. 22, while the Topper boys have earned one team win in four tries.