Boys basketball: LA topped Friday at Española Valley

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By Mike Cote

ESPAÑOLA — Despite facing the District 2AAAA heavyweight champ Friday, the Los Alamos Hilltopper boys basketball team survived several knockout attempts.
Los Alamos managed to hang with the Española Valley Sundevils, the now five-time defending district champions, throughout Friday’s contest at Edward Medina Gymnasium. But the Sundevils, who again are on the short list to contend for a Class 4A title this season, led the game from wire-to-wire top earn a 58-45 victory.
The win clinched the fifth-straight regular season title for the Sundevils, who have lost just one district game in two-plus years, that at the hands of Los Alamos in the 2008-09 season.
Española Valley, led by its star shooting guard Rodney Coles, led by 12 points at the half. It would expand the lead to as much as 18 late in the third quarter and early in the fourth, but Los Alamos was able to bounce back and stay within striking distance throughout.
Los Alamos (6-19 overall, 2-5 in 2AAAA) actually outscored Española Valley 16-13 in the final quarter. Bobby Sanders scored eight of his 12 points in the fourth, in which Los Alamos went 8-for-11 from the foul line.
Unfortunately, Los Alamos struggled from the line in the third quarter, misfiring on 6 of 9 chances at the stripe as the Sundevils became foul-happy.
But Los Alamos’ defense, led by a big effort from forward David Knapp, slowed down Española Valley’s potent offense considerably. Knapp and Nick Baker both blocked Coles during the contest, something that seemed to throw Coles off his usually spot-on shooting.
While Coles still finished with a game-high 16 points, it wasn’t the gaudy numbers he’d been posting in recent contests. Tuesday, Coles had 18 points in the final period to lead Española Valley to a win over Capital.
Thomas Russell, who picked up three fouls in just over 10 minutes in the first half, avoided any further foul trouble in the second half and had a solid night, scoring 11 points. Nick Baker had 12 points along with Sanders to pace the team.
Sundevil center Fabian Valdez, who struggled in the teams’ first meeting of the district season, had 10 points in the game, eight in the first half.
Knapp had 10 rebounds for Los Alamos, including three offensive rebounds in the second half, giving Los Alamos several second chances.