LA boys hoops look to end skid to Sundevils

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By Jose Corral

The Los Alamos boys basketball team will attempt to end its recent hardship against Española Valley.
The Hilltoppers will host the Sundevils at 7 p.m. Saturday at Griffith Gym. Española has won the previous eight matchups in the series. Los Alamos hasn’t upended the Sundevils since a 42-37 victory on Feb. 21, 2012.
Los Alamos (9-10 overall, 1-1 District 2-5A) is coming off a 50-44 victory against Albuquerque Academy on Jan. 20, which ended a four-game losing streak. Going into a matchup against the defending Class 5A state champion on a winning note is crucial for the Hilltoppers.
Los Alamos will look to capitalize in the frontcourt by using its superior size advantage. The Hilltoppers have been able to do that since the start of district play. In the two opening District 2-5A games, Los Alamos was led in scoring by post players. Junior post Troy Hammock scored a season-high 18 points in the opener against Del Norte, and senior Cade Gasway led the Hilltoppers with 14 against Academy.
Defensively, Los Alamos needs to account for the barrage of quality shooters that Española possesses. It’ll be a tough task as the Sundevils have recently been using their frontcourt presence of James Archuleta and Azaziah Salazar to open up shooters on the perimeter like point guard Christian Fernandez.
The defending state champion Sundevils go into Saturday’s game sporting a 15-4 overall record and 2-0 in district. But Española suffered a setback with a 51-49 loss to Pojoaque Valley on Jan. 20, before topping Capital in a marquee district matchup on Wednesday in Santa Fe.
Española was battled tested during non-district play. The Sundevils started the season by downing Gallup, and throughout the season they’ve faced Grants twice (lost the first game, won the second), beat Belen on the road and downed Eldorado. Two of their four losses were against defending Class 6A state champion Rio Rancho.