LA held to 5 points in 1st half Tuesday

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By Mike Cote

ALBUQUERQUE – Momentum of any kind has been hard to come by for the Los Alamos Hilltopper boys basketball team this season.
Battling through a 1-win season-to-date, the Hilltoppers can’t be too picky about where it comes from, either.
Heading into Tuesday night’s contest against the defending Class 4A champion St. Pius X Sartans, the Hilltoppers were hoping to ride a wave of good feeling after having a good showing three nights earlier against Los Lunas.
Unfortunately, Los Alamos wouldn’t be able to build on that good feeling.
The Sartans shut Los Alamos out in the second quarter of Tuesday night’s game and held a 30-5 lead at the half. The Sartans would roll on to win going away, 58-22.
St. Pius, which imposes its will on others about as well as any team in 4A, was able to do just that early in the game. Los Alamos couldn’t find any rhythm on offense until late.
“It was frustrating, we got really frustrated,” Hilltopper point guard Franklin Archuleta said. “When we were driving, they’d hedge. They did a really good job of that. We got frustrated and we kind of took our game outside. We tried to beat them from the outside and it just didn’t work like we wanted it to.”
Los Alamos is still trying to make adjustments ahead of the start of the District 2-4A season in just one week, and it is doing so while getting acclimated to its new head coach, Mike Kluk.
Kluk, who was named the interim coach just eight days before after the sudden departure of Fil Dominguez, is still seeking his first win in the big chair. Los Alamos has taken two lopsided road losses since he was named head coach, to Pojoaque Valley and the Sartans.
If the Hilltoppers can grab some momentum, they can still be competitive in 2-4A, which is usually among the top districts in the state, but is certainly not shaping up that way so far this season.
While there is no shortage of problems the Hilltoppers must work through to be competitive, Kluk said there are a few things that need to get better right now.
“What happens is people get out of sync, they start ball-watching, it gets crazy,” Kluk said. “We’ve got to work on getting everyone moving. In the second half, when we started executing our offense, people were getting open and we were getting shots. We got three or four really good shots.”
Los Alamos (1-15) got knocked down early in Tuesday’s game, falling behind 7-0 through the first half of the first quarter before getting on the board.
Then the Sartans’ defense, which was impressive throughout, took over the contest. The Hilltoppers turned the ball over seven times in the second quarter and only got a handful of decent looks at the basket.
While things got slightly better in the second half, the offense wouldn’t pick up enough to keep up with the Sartans (8-4), who got some good production under the basket.
St. Pius post Ray Reyes dropped in 21 points in the game – the only player on either team to get into double-figures – scoring 13 of those in the first half before sitting out a big chunk of the third quarter.
St. Pius forward Zane Van Winkle had 8 points coming off the bench.
For Los Alamos, Skyler Veenis led with 6 points. Archuleta and Elliott Clay added 5 points.