Hilltoppers drop district game against rival Sundevils

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By Phil Scherer

Even in years when the boys’ basketball teams aren’t state title contenders, the rivalry between Española Valley and Los Alamos High School remains fierce and competitive, with every game seeming like the most important of the year. That’s how it felt inside Griffith Gymnasium Tuesday night, as the Sundevils invaded the home of the Hilltoppers and walked away with a hard-fought 73-58 victory. 

Long before the game began, the stands inside Griffith Gymnasium were packed with fans of both teams, creating the most electric atmosphere in the building since these same two teams met a year ago. 

Early on, it was clear the Hilltoppers were feeding off the crowd, as senior guard David Owen and junior forward Gavin Campos ran up and down the floor in transition throughout the first quarter, picking up 4 points apiece. Junior guard Matthew Owen also provided a spark, knocking down a three-pointer. 

The Sundevils led 12-10 after the first quarter thanks to a pair of three-pointers from Brian Martinez and 7 points from star senior guard Ryan Trujillo. 

Española Valley began to break the game wide open in the second quarter as the Hilltopper offense struggled to knock down shots, and key players began getting into foul trouble. 

Campos was called for a pair of questionable charging fouls in the first half, and was also issued a technical foul after a verbal altercation with Española’s Justino Rascon. The fouls forced Campos out of the game for the last part of the first half. 

The brush-up seemed to energize Rascon, who picked up 6 quick points in the second half. LAHS was outscored by 14 points in the second quarter, and entered halftime trailing 40-22. 

Increased energy returned to the LAHS sideline at the beginning of the second half, and the team was able to temporarily cut the lead in half to nine points. Junior guard Brian Irwin led the way with a pair of three-point baskets, and he also cut to the basket with an impressive move for a layup. 

The Sundevils regained control quickly, though, and pushed the lead back up to 15 points, 57-42, heading into the final quarter. 

With the game out of reach in the final quarter, both coaches emptied the bench, providing younger players a chance to compete in front of a packed crowd. Every player on the Hilltoppers scored at least one point, including Cooper Frank, who scored in his varsity debut. 

LAHS remained on even ground with the Sundevils throughout the final quarter, and fell 73-58. The Hilltoppers were led in scoring by Irwin, who picked up 14 points. Campos and David Owen also scored in double digits, with 10 points apiece. 

Española Valley’s Trujillo was the overall leading scorer, finishing with 26 points. Many of his baskets came in transition, where he was nearly impossible to stop.

With the loss, LAHS drops to 5-14 overall, and 0-2 in District 2-4A play. After a road game tonight in Taos, the Hilltoppers will return home at 7 p.m. Feb. 7 to take on Pojoaque Valley to end the first rotation of district play.