Boys’ basketball advances to district tournament semifinals

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By Phil Scherer

All throughout the regular season, Los Alamos High School boys’ basketball coach Mike Kluk knew his team had enough talent to compete against any team. Now, in the district tournament, his team is proving it with an unlikely run to the semifinals. 

LAHS finished the regular season with a district record of 2-6, good enough to earn the No. 4 seed and host the first round of the district tournament. LAHS easily dispatched Moriarty in the first round 64-53, then advanced to the quarterfinals and defeated Pojoaque 47-43.

Monday night against Moriarty, the Hilltopper offense came out of the locker room on fire, building a 16-2 lead in the blink of an eye. 

The team knocked down eight shots from the floor in the opening quarter, and was led offensively by Gavin Campos and David Owen, who both made great passes to set up opportunities and converted every opportunity that came their way. 

LAHS extended its lead to 33-16 by halftime, as Campos scored 10 points and Owen added 8 points. 

The Hilltopper defense was even more impressive, moving quickly to double-team anyone with the ball in his hands and intercepting passes with great efficiency. The defensive effort made things even easier on the offensive end of the floor, where transition opportunities presented themselves early and often. 

After halftime, LAHS remained aggressive. Luc Chavez, who made his first start of the season in the game, knocked down LAHS’ only three-pointer of the contest. He also converted on an impressive layup opportunity.

With many of the Hilltopper starters on the bench at the end of the game, Moriarty closed the gap slightly, but LAHS remained firmly in control, winning the ballgame 64-53. 

LAHS advanced to face Pojoaque in the quarterfinals. Just three days earlier, in the regular season finale, the Hilltoppers defeated Pojoaque 43-37 at Ben Lujan Gymnasium. 

In the rematch in the district tournament, LAHS used much the same strategy of relying on defensive pressure and knocking down shots when necessary. 

Campos remained the top threat offensively for the Hilltoppers, as he scored 7 quick points in the first quarter. 

Opportunities were limited for LAHS early, as the Elks took away the space close to the basket, forcing the Hilltoppers to take longer jump shots. 

LAHS remained patient offensively, knocking down four three-pointers in the first half, while Pojoaque only knocked down three shots from the field in the opening half. 

The Hilltoppers entered the halftime break leading 29-15. 

Offense disappeared for the Hilltoppers in the third quarter, though, as a Matthew Owen three-pointer was the only points LAHS scored. 

Pojoaque closed the gap to 32-26 heading into the final quarter and appeared to be well-positioned to make a comeback. 

LAHS did just enough to remain in control, though, regaining some offensive momentum in the final quarter and pushing the lead back to double-digits. 

A late comeback effort fell short, and LAHS earned a 47-43 win, advancing the team to the district tournament semifinals. 

After scoring 22 points against Moriarty, Campos added 17 points against Pojoaque. Thanks to a pair of three-point baskets, Matthew Owen scored 13 points against the Elks.