Atomic City Update: LAHS boys’ basketball exceeded expectations with trip to district semifinals

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By Phil Scherer

Heading into this basketball season, my expectations for the Los Alamos High School boys’ team were quite low. I never doubted they had talent, I just wondered how the team would play offensively and also wondered about the leadership qualities of members of the team. 

Despite the disappointing 9-20 record of the team, the kids flashed a lot of potential that should serve them in the future. All season, the defense was strong, actively challenging passes and contesting shots at the rim. 

Though the team did not have a lot of players with size under the basket, LAHS held a lot of teams in check and did a good job for the most part grabbing rebounds. 

After showing flashes of brilliance a year ago, Gavin Campos emerged as the offensive leader for the Hilltoppers, working well in tandem with senior David Owen to create a strong 1-2 punch that teams were forced to defend against. 

Campos will return for his senior season next year, and should be an even more complete player. His greatest performances came in the district tournament, where he dominated against Moriarty and Pojoaque Valley. That shows me he plays well on the biggest stage, a trait that should help him next year. 

The biggest thing working in the team’s favor is that nearly the entire team returns next year. LAHS had only two seniors this year, Owen and Gabe Holesinger. 

Players like Matthew Owen, Brian Irwin and JD Carson also showed flashes of great things to come, and another summer to develop will serve all of them well. 

With a young team, one of the biggest things you look for is progress and dedication. When things get tough, do they keep working hard or do they give up?

Toward the end of the season, it would have been easy for the kids to give up and move on. Instead, the team got stronger as the season went along, even as losses against great teams kept piling up. 

The Hilltoppers won the final game of the regular season against Pojoaque Valley on the road, then picked up a pair of wins in the district tournament. It took a team ranked in the top 5 in Class 4A to knock out the Hilltoppers. 

Even in losses against Taos and Española Valley, LAHS was resilient. On the road against the Sundevils, LAHS was within three points in the middle of the third quarter. That’s a team that was in the state championship game a year ago and proved capable of dominating some of the best teams in New Mexico.

That shows me that the kids have heart, are dedicated and want to win. I saw that desire build more and more as the season went on.

Next year, I expect to see even more progress, as they young players continue to develop and grow into solid players. Look out, Española and Taos, next year there could be third team contending for the crown in District 2-4A.