Boys basketball earns third at Belen tourney

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By Phil Scherer

After playing just three games since Nov. 21, the Los Alamos High School boys basketball team kicked its season into high gear last weekend at the Belen Hub City Tournament.

With three games in three days, the coaching staff got a good look at what this year’s team is capable of, and expectations for the season remain high after earning third place in the eight-team tournament.

The tournament kicked off for the Hilltoppers with a game against charter school Mission, Achievement and Success Thursday afternoon. MAS, located in Albuquerque, will officially join the New Mexico Activities Association next school year in Class 2A.

After one quarter, LAHS led 25-2, and at halftime the Hilltoppers led 42-10. The domination continued after halftime, as the team cruised to a 69-23 victory.

That win allowed LAHS to advance to the winner’s side of the bracket, assuring at least a fourth place finish at the tournament.

On Friday evening, the Hilltoppers took on Manzano High School.

The game offered the greatest challenge of the young season so far, as Manzano entered the game ranked among the best teams in the state.

The Monarchs started the game strong, jumping out to a quick 23-16 lead after the first quarter.

LAHS proved to be resilient, however, answering back by outscoring Manzano 18-12 in the second quarter to head into halftime down by just1 point.

Though the Hilltoppers did well to keep the game close to the very end, Manzano ultimately claimed a 71-65 victory, sending LAHS to Saturday’s third-place game.

Despite the loss, LAHS had a strong offensive showing against Manzano. Ramon Roybal led the team with 18 points, and Antonio Trujillo added 13. Both shot well from beyond the arc, as Roybal knocked down four three-pointers, and Trujillo added three of his own. In total, LAHS knocked down nine in the game.

Also contributing on offense were Michael Naranjo and Ivan Balakirev, the team’s inside presence. Naranjo scored 9 points, while Balakirev added 8.

With the loss, LAHS advanced to take on Mayfield High School in the third-place game. Mayfield defeated El Paso High School Thursday, before falling to Belen High School on Friday.

It proved to be a good matchup for the Hilltoppers, who used a consistent offensive attack to claim victory.

After going up 13-9 in the first quarter, the teams played even in the second quarter, scoring 15 points apiece.

The Hilltoppers seized control in the third quarter, outscoring Mayfield 21-16 to extend the lead to 9 points, and cruised from there for a 68-56 win.

Once again, the scoring was balanced in the game, as Trujillo led the Hilltoppers with 19 points, while Gavin Campos added 13 and Troy Hammock scored 12.

The team was less successful in this game at shooting three-pointers, knocking down just five of the 14 attempted. No player connected on more than one.

Perhaps most encouraging is the way the Hilltoppers handled the ball, committing just 11 turnovers in the game. Assists were also a strong point, as LAHS collected 14 in the game, led by Roybal, who had five.

The Hilltoppers now have a record of 4-2. The team will return to action this week with a pair of games in Albuquerque.

First up will be a Thursday matchup with St. Pius X, followed by a game at Eldorado High School Friday evening. Both games will begin at 7 p.m.