Hilltoppers lose district opener against Knights

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By Phil Scherer

The inconsistency that has haunted the Los Alamos High School boys’ basketball team throughout the season continued Wednesday, as the Hilltoppers fell 64-51 to Del Norte High School on the road in the team’s District 2-5A opener.

Coming into the game, LAHS was looking to get back on track after a home loss to Lovington High School Saturday afternoon in which the team struggled on both ends of the floor.

In the early part of the first quarter against Del Norte, it appeared the same struggles would continue for the Hilltoppers.

The Knights jumped out to a 10-2 lead midway through the quarter, forcing LAHS head coach Mike Kluk to take an early timeout.

One of the major early issues for the Hilltoppers was foul trouble on sophomore Gavin Campos.

On two straight possessions, Campos drove toward the basket to attempt a layup but was called for an offensive foul.

The two quick fouls forced him out of the game, and changed the offensive strategy for LAHS.

After the timeout, senior Ramon Roybal caught fire, connecting on a pair of 3-pointers to get the Hilltoppers back in the game.

As the quarter drew to a close, Roybal also connected on a running midrange shot.

Thanks to a 7-point run to end the quarter by LAHS, the score was tied 12-12 after the first quarter.

Roybal’s hot shooting continued into the second quarter, as he connected on two more 3-pointers, giving him 14 points in the half. Also connecting on shots in the second quarter were Antonio Trujillo, Troy Hammock and Ivan Balakirev.

The Hilltoppers were able to keep pace with Del Norte in the quarter, and went into halftime trailing by one point, 25-24.

After the teams came back out for halftime, though, Del Norte took its offense to another level and made it difficult for the Hilltoppers to keep pace.

Though LAHS was able to match Del Norte’s four 3-point baskets in the quarter, the team struggled to put together any other source of offense and was outscored in the quarter 20-14. The Hilltoppers went into the fourth quarter trailing 45-38.

As the game wound down, the offensive struggles continued for LAHS and the shots kept dropping for Del Norte.

The Hilltoppers made just three shots in the final quarter, and went 5-10 from the free throw line.

In an attempt to force turnovers in the backcourt, LAHS went to a full-court press for much of the final quarter.

However, Del Norte was able to repeatedly escape the pressure, leading to easy layups on the other end of the floor.

The Knights were able to open up a double-digit lead, and cruised to a 64-51 victory.

Roybal led the Hilltoppers in scoring with 20 points, and Camps scored 12 points, all in the second half. Outside of those two, scoring was hard to come by.

Trujillo scored 6 points, Michael Naranjo had 5 points, while Hammock and Balakirev scored 4 points each.

The loss drops LAHS’ record to 9-9, and 0-1 in District 2-5A play.

The Hilltoppers will get back to action tonight against Goddard High School in a home non-district matchup.
District play will continue Saturday night against Albuquerque Academy at home.

That game will tip off at 7 p.m.