Atomic City Update: Quick turnaround of LAHS girls’ basketball should be applauded

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By Phil Scherer

Don’t you just love when a plan comes together? This time last year, the Los Alamos High School girls’ basketball team was not in a good spot. The Hilltoppers had just finished a second consecutive 6-21 season and were looking for a new head coach. It just so happened that the coach they needed was also looking for a job. 

Lanse Carter, a two-time state champion and former big man in high school, was the perfect person for the job. Who better to teach LAHS’ intimidating forwards the correct way to play under the basket than a man who spent his playing career there? 

A year later, the Hilltoppers made the state tournament and appear headed for a bright future. Becca Green, Natalie Gallegos and Michaela Gonzales, the forwards that made LAHS so tough to defend at times this season, will all return next year.

More importantly, the attitude surrounding the program has changed a great deal. No longer is this a team hoping to win games. It is now a team that expects to win games. They got that all-important taste of success. The Hilltoppers knocked off Pojoaque Valley on their home court. They defeated Española Valley twice, a team that has now advanced to the state semifinals. 

In the last half of the year, there was a confidence surrounding the group that was noticeably absent before. 

This year, they more than doubled their win total from a year ago. Last year, winning a single district game was considered a success. This year, losing two district games almost seemed like an upset. 

Yes, the talent on a roster is important, and that talent was a big reason for the turnaround. 

But the coaching and teaching that happened inside that program this season was the most important difference. I noticed the change almost immediately. 

I visited a couple of Carter’s practices early last summer, and everyone seemed much happier to be on the court and playing basketball. That carried over into the season. 

Carter encouraged the team and put them in positions to be successful. Success didn’t come immediately, but the girls kept working hard and the results eventually did follow. The team grew together, and I expect that growth to continue in the next few years. 

The union of Carter and the Hilltoppers really has been fantastic. Both parties really needed each other. This year, both benefitted from having each other. A year ago, the idea of the Hilltopper girls’ basketball team competing for a district title and earning an at-large bid to the state tournament seemed far-fetched. It doesn’t seem that way anymore. 

The level of belief has been raised inside the locker room. The expectations have been raised outside of the locker room. 

Now, when people see the Hilltoppers coming up on their schedule, they will know they are in for a fight. 

LAHS is now a force to be reckoned with around northern New Mexico. If you ask Carter, or any of his coaches or players, I bet they would say that’s exactly the way they like it.