Boys basketball: Toppers knocked out in quarterfinal

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By Mike Cote

SANTA FE — No one could argue that through the course of the second half of the season the Los Alamos Hilltopper boys basketball team made some strides.
However, those strides didn’t equate to many victories.
Such was the case again Tuesday for the Hilltoppers in what was most likely their final game of the 2010-11 season. The Hilltoppers hung tough with the Santa Fe Demons throughout the quarterfinal of the District 2AAAA tournament and had plenty of chances late to earn an upset victory, a berth in the tournament semifinals and perhaps even some serious consideration for an at-large bid in the state playoffs.
But the Hilltoppers couldn’t make the plays down the stretch that might have swung the game in their favor. They fell to the Demons 45-40 Tuesday at Toby Roybal Memorial Gymnasium, knocking them out of the district tournament.
Los Alamos gradually whittled Santa Fe’s nine-point advantage at the half down to just two with 1:28 remaining in regulation when Bobby Sanders buried a 12-foot jumper.
But in the waning moments, Los Alamos missed chances at two potentially huge rebounds and made a costly turnover with :30.9 remaining that ultimately iced the game for Santa Fe.
“I thought the fight was there in the second half, we just didn’t execute well enough when we needed to,” said Hilltopper head coach Matt King, who probably coached the final game of his first season at Los Alamos Tuesday. “We had chances, but we didn’t take advantage.”
While Los Alamos could never find the tying bucket in the second half, Santa Fe did its part to keep Los Alamos alive, misfiring on 19 of 32 free throw attempts and managing just five second half field goals.
With the Hilltoppers trailing by eight early in the fourth quarter, guard Nick Baker converted a rare 4-point play to immediately halve the Demon lead.
Baker, who had a huge second half Monday to help propel the Hilltoppers to a 1-point victory over Bernalillo in the tournament’s first round, finished with a game-high 13 points Tuesday, the only player on either side to break into double-figures. Thomas Russell, who spent the majority of the game in foul trouble, had eight points for Los Alamos.
The Hilltoppers finish with a 7-21 mark, going 3-7 in 2AAAA play.