Hilltoppers drop to 0-4 in district play

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By Phil Scherer

Throughout the first half of the district season, the Los Alamos High School boys’ basketball team has struggled to find consistent sources of offense. 

Familiar issues popped up again Thursday night against Pojoaque Valley, as the Hilltoppers managed only 13 points in the second half, falling 45-35 at home. 

“We just have to improve,” Hilltopper head coach Mike Kluk said. “There are a lot of things we can still improve on. We can still get better, and maybe make a run in the district tournament.”

Despite losing the first four district games, Kluk believes his team is capable of defeating some of the other teams in the district the second time through the rotation. 

LAHS was within 15 points in all four district contests to this point. 

LAHS and Pojoaque Valley played an even first half, as both teams struggled to get into an offensive rhythm. The first quarter ended 9-9, and the second quarter ended 22-22. 

The Hilltoppers remained competitive in the first half without the services of leading scorer Gavin Campos, who was on the bench with two fouls he picked up early in the first quarter. 

“We wanted to save Gavin’s three fouls for the second half, where we hoped we could really get him going,” Kluk said. “It worked out pretty well in the first half because we were able to keep the score tied.”

Despite having Campos back on the floor for the third quarter, the offense went stagnant, repeatedly passing the ball around the three-point line. 

LAHS was unable to find an open three-point shot, and the suffocating zone defense Pojoaque played kept the Hilltoppers from getting the ball inside. 

The only LAHS points of the third quarter came on an improbable three-point shot from Gabe Holesinger, who normally plays directly under the basket. 

Pojoaque didn’t do much better offensively in the third quarter, though, as the Elks came up with only 7 points. LAHS trailed 29-25 heading into the final quarter of action. 

LAHS appeared to show signs of breaking out offensively at the beginning of the fourth quarter, as senior David Owen had an impressive layup in transition and knocked down a three-pointer. 

Junior Luc Chavez also got involved, knocking down his second three-pointer of the game. He has been a bright spot for the Hilltoppers, as he has improved noticeably since the beginning of the season.

Pojoaque was more successful, though, repeatedly earning trips to the free throw line, where the Elks extended the lead to double digits. Shots stopped falling for the Hilltoppers in the final minutes, as the Elks walked away with a 45-35 victory. 

Owen led the Hilltoppers with 7 points, while Luc Chavez and Sebbie Wood had 6 points apiece. Campos finished the game with 3 points, all of those coming in the first quarter. 

Following a short break in the schedule, the Hilltoppers get back to action Feb. 15 on the road against Española Valley. 

In the first meeting between the two schools, the Sundevils defeated LAHS 73-58 inside Griffith Gymnasium.