Boys, girls hoops squads on travel

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By Mike Cote

It’s a quiet sports weekend in Los Alamos.No sporting events are scheduled in town, and only the Hilltopper boys and girls basketball teams will be in action on the road.

Girls basketball

Los Alamos will be down in Albuquerque again Saturday when it goes to face the Highland Hornets for an evening tilt.Los Alamos took part in last week’s Albuquerque Public Schools Invitational. It was scheduled to have a home game Tuesday against defending Class AAAA champion Aztec, but that game was postponed due to weather conditions. A make-up date has not yet been announced.The Hornets have gotten off to a slow start this season, dropping four of their first five contests, including match-ups against Rio Rancho and Manzano in the APS Invitational. They did bounce back in the seventh-place game of the tournament to knock off Albuquerque High 54-38.Los Alamos knocked off that same Albuquerque High team the night after getting toppled by the Eldorado Eagles.Highland, despite missing out on the Class AAAAA tournament last season, is an older club than Los Alamos, with five seniors and two juniors on the squad.The Hornets sport 6-foot-1 Deeva Vaughn, who, in the estimation of Hilltopper head coach Gerry Washburn is one of the top two players in Albuquerque.“We’ll have our hands full,” Washburn said. “They’re an AAAAA program. They like to pressure. They have a real good player, and we’ll have to deal with the pressure.”Los Alamos, for its part, is showing signs of getting its offense on track. In its first four games, Los Alamos was generally setting itself up for good shots in the paint but not getting many of them to fall.In Friday’s game against Albuquerque, Los Alamos broke the 40-point mark for the first time on the season, and put in 48 points against Manzano.Taylor Ealey, who has shown signs of becoming a dominant player in the paint, had 20 points Saturday night. The previous night, Ealey hit a huge 3-pointer in the waning moments of regulation to whittle down a six-point Albuquerque advantage.Defensively, the Hilltoppers have had strong showing in most of their early games. Washburn said he was particularly impressed with his team’s defensive showing in the first half against Manzano, holding the Monarchs to just seven points in the first quarter, a defensive showing that was badly needed since the ’Toppers managed just four points of their own.Going into Saturday’s contest, the Hilltoppers have turned in three solid days of practice of this owing to the postponement of Tuesday’s game, which Washburn said wasn’t an unexpected postponement.“We’ve had time to do our work, I’ve had time to do my teaching,” Washburn said. “With a little luck, they’re tired of playing each other and tired of listening to me.”

Boys basketball

The Hilltoppers have gotten off to a good start in 2007-08, winning five of their opening six contests, their only blemish being a rough outing against two-time defending AAA champ St. Michael’s Dec. 4.The ’Toppers bounced back from that game quite nicely last weekend, where they swept a two-game set with Piedra Vista and Farmington in a visit to the Four Corners area, then earned a solid road victory Wednesday night against Belen (see story on page 10 for more details).Los Alamos has logged some heavy mileage over the past week and the trip to Silver City and a trip in early January to the Poe-Corn Tournament in Roswell will keep the team bus’ odometer rolling.“We’ll see what kind of toll that takes on our focus and how we play,” said Los Alamos head coach Alan Kirk of the travel.Kirk said he expects Silver’s Colts to run and use pressure as Belen did Wednesday, but that his team should be ready for it. He believes most teams will use similar up-tempo tactics for the next several games.“You look at the string of teams we’re playing, there will be a lot of what we faced (Wednesday),” Kirk said.Silver’s had a rough go of it early this season, dropping four of five to start. Its only win came over Cobre Dec. 11, 63-36.The Colts’ losses have all come against AAAAA schools, however, including Oñate, Mayfield, Alamogordo and Gadsden. In those games, the Colts only managed to stay with Gadsden, while the other three were runaway victories for the opposition.While Los Alamos will be driving into Silver, Silver will be driving home from Thatcher, Ariz., where it has an interstate game scheduled Friday night.The Colts have a small lineup, with 6-4 Jeff Soto and 6-3 Cody Riggs being the tallest members of the squad.Following Saturday’s game, Los Alamos heads to the Ben Lujan Tournament in Pojoaque before the Poe-Corn Tournament. Its next home game isn’t scheduled until Jan. 12.