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LAHS

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Pitchers dominate as LAHS sweeps doubleheader

By Phil Scherer

Behind unbelievable pitching performances by Reyna Lucero and Savana Luster, the Los Alamos High School softball team swept its home-opening doubleheader against St. Pius X High School, winning the first game 6-0 and the second game 16-1.

Starting the first game, Lucero did not allow a single hit in her complete game shutout, and was in complete control from the first pitch until the game ended.

The Sartans had trouble making solid contact starting in the first inning when Lucero worked around a hit by pitch by forcing a pair of weak groundouts to the second baseman and a soft lineout.

Her dominance continued in the second inning, when she struck out her first batter of the game looking on a pitch down in the strike zone.

She added on more strikeout in the third inning, and two more in the fourth inning, as St. Pius failed to make consistent contact.

Lucero cruised until reaching the final inning, when her rising pitch count made her pitches harder to execute. In the seventh inning, she walked the leadoff batter before getting two quick outs on popups on the infield.

With two outs, it was clear she was beginning to tire as she walked her second batter of the inning and putting runners on first and second. It was the only time a runner reached scoring position for the Sartans the entire game.

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Tough season comes to an end for Hilltoppers

By Phil Scherer

With a loss in the first round of the District 2-5A tournament, the season has officially ended for the Los Alamos High School girls’ basketball team.

The Hilltoppers, which entered the tournament as the No. 5 seed, traveled to Albuquerque Academy, the No. 4 seed, to begin the tournament, falling 48-40.

This was the fourth meeting of the season between LAHS and the Chargers, with Academy going 2-1 in the regular season. The Hilltoppers won the first meeting in December’s Joe Armijo Tournament 47-35, while the Chargers won both meetings in district play, 45-38 in Albuquerque and 42-38 in overtime in Los Alamos, with every game coming down to the final minutes.

In the early going, the fourth meeting looked much like the first three, with offense coming at a premium and turnovers coming early and often.

The teams combined to connect on only four shots in the first quarter and ended the first eight minutes tied 6-6. LAHS’ only made basket in the quarter came on a 3-pointer from Jenee Montoya.

The offense picked up in the second quarter, as the Hilltoppers made a strong effort to push the ball toward the basket and draw contact. The strategy paid off, as LAHS went to the free-throw line eight times in the quarter, connecting on four of the shots.

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LAHS falls in first round of district tourney

By Phil Scherer

A season that began with so much promise for the Los Alamos High School boys’ basketball team ended suddenly this week, as the Hilltoppers fell to Albuquerque Academy 62-53 in the first round of the District 2-5A tournament.

Much like most of the team’s district games, this contest will be remembered for LAHS’ inability to finish.

This became a theme during the Hilltoppers’ season-ending 11-game losing streak, specifically in close losses against Academy, Capital and Del Norte.

And much like those games, LAHS started strong in the district tournament. In the first quarter, the Hilltoppers connected on nine shots, including three 3-pointers. Two came from Ramon Roybal and the other came from Antonio Trujillo.

While LAHS shot well from the field in the opening quarter, Academy shot well from the free-throw line, going 6-8, as the Chargers’ strategy was to get the ball inside as often as possible in an attempt to get the Hilltoppers’ forwards into foul trouble.

LAHS only had three true inside presences active for the game, Ivan Balakirev, Michael Naranjo and Gabe Holesinger, making it difficult for any of them to play aggressively.

Thanks to the strong outside shooting, the Hilltoppers led 21-17 after the first quarter.

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LAHS finishes in top 10 at state swim meet

By Phil Scherer

Though only one competitor ended up with a top-3 finish, the Los Alamos High School swimming and diving teams had a good overall showing at the 2018 state championships.

Both the boys and the girls teams ended up with top-10 finishes, with the girls finishing in sixth place and the boys finishing ninth.

The Hilltoppers had four swimmers that qualified for the state meet in two individual events apiece: Jillian Bennett, Andy Corliss, Ian Jaegers and Sara Shiina.

Shiina had the best showing of the meet for LAHS, finishing in third place in the 100-yard butterfly event with a time of 59.54 seconds. She also finished in eighth place in the 100-yard backstroke event with a time of 1:01.65.

Bennett had a pair of top-5 finishes, earning fourth place in the 100-yard breaststroke with a time of 1:06.05 and fifth place in the 50-yard freestyle with a time of 24.97 seconds.

Corliss ended up with a pair of 13th place finishes, in the 200-yard individual medley with a time of 2:06.77, and in the 100-yard breaststroke with a time of 1:02.03.

Jaegers was also consistent, finishing in 13th place in the 500-yard freestyle with a time of 5:05.10, and in 14th place in the 100-yard backstroke with a time of 56.25 seconds.

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Five other LAHS wrestlers earn medals as Hilltoppers finish seventh

Atencio wins state championship

By Phil Scherer

For the first time since 2014, the Los Alamos High School wrestling team has a state champion.

Devin Atencio, a freshman in the 106-pound weight class, claimed the title by defeating all four of his opponents last weekend at the NMAA State Wrestling Championships. And he did it in convincing fashion, appearing in control throughout every match.

“It feels amazing,” Atencio said. “I have been working at this for my whole life. It’s just a great feeling.”

Last year, as an eighth-grader, Atencio finished in fourth place at the championships, easily getting through the first two rounds of the competition before falling in the semifinals and the third-place match.

This year, he seemed determined to keep that from happening.

In the first round, he faced Española Valley’s Joey Fernandez, who he defeated for the District 2-5A championship the week prior. Much like the first matchup, Atencio had little trouble defeating Fernandez, pinning him in 1:13.

The quarterfinal round against Kirtland Central’s Devin Montano was equally dominant for Atencio, as he earned the pin just 32 seconds into the second round to advance to the semifinals.

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LAHS claims 4 wrestling district championships

By Phil Scherer

After a successful showing at the individual district championships last weekend in Española, the Los Alamos High School wrestling team is sending 14 athletes to the state championships, and claimed four individual district championships.

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Devin Atencio, Israel Gellis, Dylan Irish and Milo Light claimed championships in their weight classes, while Donovan Atencio, Damian Gonzales, Aiden Johnson, Reyes Mendez, Ty Nieto, Lewis Harvey, Dmitri Bullock and Arturo Rodriguez placed in the top three, earning automatic berths to the state championships.

Also advancing are Liam Johnston and Gloria Ramos. After finishing in fourth place in the 126-pound weight class at the district championships, Johnston earned a wild card berth to the state championships.

Ramos, the only girl on LAHS’ wrestling team, did not compete at the district championships so she could compete in the New Mexico Activities Association’s first-ever girls’ wrestling tournament.

According to NMAA Associate Director Dusty Young, there will be eight weight classes (101, 106, 111, 121, 131, 143, 160, 185) with eight girls per weight participating in the combined-classification exhibition tournament. A total of 38 high schools will be represented in this event.

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Hilltopper hockey gets back in win column

By Phil Scherer

For the first time in nearly two months, the Los Alamos High School hockey team got into the win column, winning two games against the Taos Ice Tigers last weekend.

The Hilltoppers entered the weekend on a 10-game winless streak, dating back to Dec. 16. Throughout the long drought, defense proved to be a problem for the team, allowing five or more goals eight times.

Against Taos, however, the defense stepped up in a big way for LAHS, allowing just two combined goals in two games to end the regular season.

Friday evening, the Hilltoppers started scoring early and did not allow Taos a chance to respond. Just three minutes into the game, Tyler Weiss scored his fourth goal of the season, putting LAHS in front 1-0.

Ben Rees added on to the score with five minutes left in the period with his 13th goal of the season, putting his team in front 2-0 heading into the second period.

Weiss and Rees combined on a goal at the beginning of the second period to put the Hilltoppers up 3-0, giving them complete control of the contest.

Midway through the period, Jacob Dunwoody scored his 13th goal of the season, putting the team up 4-0 after the second period.

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Atomic City Update: District tiebreakers seem unfair for high school athletes

By Phil Scherer

One of the most confusing aspects of high school sports are the tiebreakers in postseason play, which are often hard for anyone to understand, and don’t always seem completely fair.

This is especially concerning as the winter sports season draws to a close, with the regular season in basketball set to end next week. With district races as close as ever around New Mexico, many of the tiebreaker scenarios could come into play, and could end up having a significant impact on the state tournament.

One of the oddest things about this tiebreaker system is that the rules are different if the tie occurs between the No. 1 and No. 2 seed than if the tie occurs between any other seeds.

In the event that the top two seeds are tied, a winner-take-all playoff game determines the No. 1 seed, which gets a pass directly to the district championship game.

However, if the tie occurs between lower seeds, or if more than two teams are tied, then an entirely different system is used: point differential.

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Hilltoppers lose to Del Norte on senior night

By Phil Scherer

Prior to Saturday night’s game against Del Norte High School, the Los Alamos High School boys’ basketball team honored its seniors with a Senior Night celebration. The moment offered a chance to reflect on what the group has accomplished, but also offered a reminder of what this season was supposed to look like.

When the season began, eight seniors filled the roster. Only six are still active. Jack Stewart left the team after Thanksgiving, and Andreas Runde suffered a season-ending leg injury soon after.

The six seniors that remain, Ramon Roybal, Antonio Trujillo, Troy Hammock, Michael Naranjo, Brandan Duran and Ivan Balakirev, have all played big roles this year, but the results haven’t followed.

The team has stumbled to a 9-14 record, including many close losses in recent weeks. That continued against Del Norte, as LAHS fell 55-51 in a game that came down to the final minute.

Hilltopper head coach Mike Kluk said that the team’s inability to knock down shots, and committing too many turnovers contributed to the loss.

“You can’t beat decent teams, and definitely can’t beat good teams, having 17 or 18 turnovers,” Kluk said. “It’s just tough to do.”

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Second half struggles keep LAHS winless in district

By Phil Scherer

Despite showing flashes of exciting play Saturday night, the Los Alamos High School girls’ basketball team lost its fifth straight district game, falling to Del Norte High School on the road 53-31.

Heading into the game, there was reason for optimism among the Hilltopper faithful. In the first meeting between the teams, the game came down to the final seconds in a 39-36 Del Norte victory. It was close from beginning to end.

This game had a much different feel early on, as the Knights’ girls attacked the Hilltoppers without fear in the first quarter. Del Norte captain Amanda Burks set the tone offensively, scoring her team’s first 11 points of the game, including three impressive 3-point shots. With the strong shooting of Burks, Del Norte jumped out to a quick 11-2 lead.

The gap continued to widen throughout the first quarter, as the Knights repeatedly found a way to get open underneath the basket, resulting in easy layup opportunities.

After falling behind 21-6 as time expired in the first quarter, the Hilltoppers caught a break for the first time in the ballgame. Attempting a three-quarter-court heave at the buzzer, LAHS’ Alex Calderon was fouled, sending her to the free throw line to shoot three shots.

She made two of the three, and cut the deficit to 21-8 heading into the second quarter.

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LAHS suffers fourth quarter collapse in loss to Academy

By Phil Scherer

After leading by as many as 10 points in the fourth quarter against Albuquerque Academy, the Los Alamos High School boys’ basketball team watched the game slip away in a heartbeat, falling 72-71.

Heading in with a 0-5 record in District 2-5A, the Hilltoppers recognized that this game was the best chance to earn a district win this season, with matchups against Española Valley and Capital looming next week.

Academy entered the game with a 1-4 district record, with its lone win coming last month in Los Alamos, a 71-60 victory over the Hilltoppers.

If LAHS were able to win the rematch by 12 points or more, it would have earned the tiebreaker over the Chargers in the upcoming district tournament. And though that seemed likely at times during the game, Academy had other ideas.

It was a game of scoring runs, and that started from the very beginning. The Chargers appeared unstoppable in the first few minutes, scoring the first 8 points of the game and forcing three turnovers from LAHS’ Antonio Trujillo.

The Hilltoppers settled down after digging the deep hole, and climbed back into the game with a pair of 3-pointers from Trujillo, and another from David Owen. Michael Naranjo also played a key role in the quarter with 6 points.

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Hilltoppers come up short in overtime against Chargers

By Phil Scherer

Despite strong offensive efforts from Becca Green and Susana Gallegos, the Los Alamos High School girls’ basketball team blew an 8-point fourth quarter lead, falling to Albuquerque Academy 42-38 in overtime.

The game was a hard-fought battle throughout, with the teams fighting for every loose ball and forcing more than a dozen held-ball calls. Nearly every trip down the floor resulted in at least a few players tangled up on the ground.

Gallegos set the tone in the game early, as she drove hard to the basket every time she got the ball in her hand, earning three trips to the free-throw line in the first quarter. She went 3-6 from the line, and added a layup, scoring 5 of the team’s 9 points in the quarter.

Thanks to her strong play, and Academy’s inability to knock down shots throughout the first eight minutes, LAHS led 9-7 after the first quarter.

Green took over for the Hilltoppers in the second quarter, putting up 7 points, as she took advantage of her size advantage on the inside, which gave her an easy lane to the basket.

The Chargers hung around throughout the half, and gained a big boost from a late 3-pointer from Mercy Moya that kept Academy within striking distance as LAHS led 20-14 at halftime.

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Atomic City Update: District play has not been kind to Hilltopper basketball

By Phil Scherer

For any high school team, winning against rival schools is one of the most satisfying feelings. Most of the time, the kids on rival teams are the ones you have known for years, and probably competed with at some point. They know what you do well, and you know what they do well. That sense of familiarity creates some of the best competition, and makes the desire to win even greater.

This is one of the reasons why having both basketball teams at Los Alamos High School go 0-4 through the first rotation of district games is so frustrating, for those in the community who watch, and especially those who are coaching and playing.

For the boys’ team, this is an unexpected development. Heading into this season, the team appeared primed for immediate success. With eight seniors on the roster, the team was expected to be one of the top teams in Class 5A, and was selected by the Santa Fe New Mexican as the team to beat in District 2-5A.

However, things haven’t gone as expected. LAHS has lost all four of its district games, with the closest game coming in a 6-point loss against Capital High School.

In the other games, an 11-point loss to Albuquerque Academy, a 13-point loss to Del Norte and a 24-point loss to Española Valley, the outcome was decided long before the final whistle blew.

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Top-ranked Sundevils dominate against LAHS

By Phil Scherer

Facing its biggest test of the season, the Los Alamos High School boys’ basketball team was unable to slow down the top ranked team in Class 5A, falling to Española Valley High School 87-63.

But just looking at the final box score wouldn’t do the Hilltoppers justice. In the early going, it was clear that the kids from Los Alamos were overwhelmed, and somewhat intimidated.

Ill-advised shots were taken all over the floor, and turnovers happened with regularity throughout the first quarter. The Sundevils scored the first 9 points of the game, and the Hilltoppers answered with 7 straight.

And then the real problems began. With the help of Hilltopper turnovers, Española Valley scored 22 straight points, and appeared unstoppable from everywhere on the floor.

The scoring run gave the Sundevils a 31-7 lead in the second quarter, a deficit that would be nearly impossible for any team to overcome.

LAHS never stopped fighting, though.

Through the remainder of the second quarter, the Hilltoppers kept the deficit the same, with both teams scoring 15 points. After knocking down just three shots in the first quarter, LAHS connected on six shots in the second quarter, including a pair of 3-pointers from Ramon Roybal and Brandan Duran.

Heading into halftime, the Sundevils led 46-22.

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Hilltoppers fail to execute in loss to Española Valley

By Phil Scherer

Finding areas that need improvement on the Los Alamos High School girls’ basketball team is easy. Figuring out the solutions in those areas is far more difficult.

Issues that have popped up all season, free throw shooting, ball handling, clock management, were on full display Saturday night as the Hilltoppers fell to Española Valley High School 37-27.

It was a sloppy contest from the very beginning, as the Hilltoppers were unable to hold onto the ball, leading to easy baskets for the Sundevils. Española Valley’s Kaylee Chavez took advantage of the offensive opportunities throughout the first quarter, as she scored 10 points, including a pair of 3-pointers.

Meanwhile, the Hilltoppers were unable to get anything going in the first quarter, scoring only 3 points on one made basket.

After the first quarter, the Hilltoppers trailed 17-3.

The struggles continued on the offensive end for LAHS into the second quarter, but the defense was much better. The Sundevils were only able to score 6 points in the second quarter, but LAHS added just 4 points, as the Hilltoppers trailed 23-7 heading into halftime.

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