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

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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.

And in a district that features that No. 1 Class 5A team in Española Valley and No. 3 ranked Capital, finishing strong will be much easier said than done.

The story is a little different for the girls’ basketball team. Coming off of a six-win season last year, another rebuilding year was expected under second-year head coach Josh Archuleta.

The most concerning thing about the team is its lack of execution so many games into the season. Issues with ball handling, free throw shooting and overall playmaking ability continue to plague the team.

In district games, the team has often gotten off to slow starts, specifically the 17-3 hole the Hilltoppers dug against Española Valley, and the 18-4 hole against Capital.

After slow starts, LAHS has played better, but the deficits have been too deep to overcome.

The silver lining surrounding the girls’ basketball team is how young most of the team is. Only three seniors will be graduating off the roster, and many of the girls that have been key contributors are only freshmen or sophomores. They still have a couple years to get things figured out.

But for this year’s teams, the time to find a way to succeed is now. Each team has an opportunity to find success in the last few district games, and will have a chance to make a good impression at the District 2-5A tournament.

Even if the state tournament no longer becomes an option, these kids are still playing for pride, and bragging rights, for years to come.