LAHS boys basketball dominates Pojoaque

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By Phil Scherer

The Los Alamos High School boys basketball team returned home Tuesday evening, defeating Pojoaque Valley High School 65-32.

This was just the team’s second home game of the season, with the first coming on Dec. 1 against St. Michael’s High School. Tuesday’s game marks the end of a tough start to the season for the Hilltoppers, in which the team played 10 of its first 11 games on the road.

“There was a little more pep in their step in warm-ups tonight,” LAHS head coach Mike Kluk said. “I think they like playing for the home crowds, and I think we shoot a little better here from the outside, so I’m hoping that plays to our favor.”

The boost of playing in front of the home crowd seemed to help the Hilltoppers early, as the team played aggressive defensively, and knocked down some key shots.

One of the big moments of the game came early on, when senior guard Ramon Roybal knocked down a deep 3-pointer as time expired in the first quarter to give the Hilltoppers a 14-9 lead.

LAHS seemed to use that shot to build momentum heading into the second quarter, as the Hilltoppers jumped all over Pojoaque on both ends of the floor. LAHS held Pojoaque scoreless over the first five minutes of the quarter, building a sizable lead.

As the teams went in for halftime, the Hilltoppers led 37-18, behind 10 points apiece from Roybal and Troy Hammock.

However, Hammock got himself into early foul trouble, picking up four personal fouls in the first half, which forced him to sit on the bench for most of the second half.

“That changes a lot for us,” Kluk said. “For him to get in foul trouble, of course he has to sit for a long time, and when Troy has to sit for a long time, he tends to get out of it, and that hurts us.”

Despite playing without one of the team’s top contributors in recent games, the Hilltoppers continued to build on the lead in the second half, scoring 15 points in the third quarter, and only allowing Pojoaque to score 9 points.

LAHS headed into the final quarter leading 52-27, and was able to coast the rest of the way.

Down the stretch, David Owen stepped up for the Hiltoppers, scoring 6 points in the final quarter to allow LAHS to maintain its lead.

With many JV players in the game in the final minutes, LAHS cruised to a 65-32 win.

One of the things that impressed Kluk in the victory was the balanced scoring, and impressive play by many of his guards.

In games earlier this season, the Hilltoppers relied heavily on Antonio Trujillo for offense. In recent games, however, guards like Owen, Roybal and Gavin Campos have stepped up and added new dimensions to the offense.

“We are pretty sure that teams like Española, Capital, those teams, will try to face guard whoever they think our main ballplayer is,” Kluk said. “So for the others to be able to step up, we have been pushing that.”

Outside of scoring ability, Kluk praised the defensive abilities of Campos and Owen, and said that the combination of Trujillo and Roybal, when both are playing well, is a tough duo to guard.

From this point on, the schedule gets a little easier for LAHS. The team has 10 home games left on the schedule, compared to five road games.

The team will return to action Friday evening at Griffith Gymnasium against Belen High School at 7 p.m.
Belen has played well for much of this season, and recently defeated LAHS’ District 2-5A rival Albuquerque Academy 67-57.