Prep boys basketball: LA gets past Pojoaque, 56-50

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‘Toppers beat Elks for first time since 2011-12 season

By Jose Corral

They needed this one.
For momentum and confidence going forward, the Los Alamos boys basketball team’s 56-50 win at Pojoaque Valley on Tuesday can go a long way.
The Hilltoppers improved to 6-6 overall, while the Elks fell to 5-5 on the season.
“We really knew that we had to win this one,” Los Alamos coach Mike Kluk said after the game in an interview with KRSN. “We have to start building a resume and losing to a 4A squad, even as good as Pojoaque is, would’ve not helped our resume.”   
Antonio Trujillo’s triple with 3:10 left in the game gave Los Alamos a 48-39 lead, the biggest of the night, but the Elks countered. Pojoaque went on a four-point run to cut the lead to 48-43.
A Trujillo layup and a Jack Stewart free throw extended Los Alamos’ lead to 51-43 with 1:30 left to play, as the Hilltoppers were able to fend off a late Pojoaque rally and claim their first win against the Elks since the 2011-12 season.
After a highly contested first half that ended 24-21 in favor of Los Alamos, the Hilltoppers engineered a 13-point third quarter. Trujillo gave Los Alamos a 28-21 lead with 5:50 left in the third quarter and Michael Naranjo extended the Hilltoppers lead to 30-21.
“A lot of teams have great outside shooters so we have to be able to get out there if we’re going to be playing zone,” Kluk said. “We have some bigger guys who’s forte is not defending smaller guards man-to-man. So sometimes we’re force to play zone.”
Pojoaque got off to a quick start and led 12-11 late in the first quarter, before Stewart hit a buzzer beater 3-pointer to give Los Alamos 14-12 first-quarter lead.    
Pojoaque’s guard play and 3-point shooting were areas for concern but the Hilltoppers defended well in the backcourt and didn’t allow the Elks to produce big scoring runs.  
“We knew if they (Pojoaque) got it going shooting, it would be a long night,” Kluk said. “Our defense was good about getting out on shooters. Defensively we played the way we wanted to play.”
Trujillo led Los Alamos with 15 points and Stewart scored 12.
“I thought the guard play tonight was pretty good,” Kluk said. “It was pretty steady and we didn’t try to force too much. Our inside-outside game was working.”
James Garcia paced Pojoaque win 17 points, while Jerry Herrera was the only other Elk in double-digits, finishing with 10.
The win came four days after concluding the grueling Poe Corn Tournament in Roswell, where the Hilltoppers were competitive but ended up finishing sixth.
Los Alamos has another short turnaround, as it’ll travel to face Belen at 7 p.m. tonight and host Santa Fe High at 7 p.m. Saturday.  
“We played Belen in the first game of the Poe Corn and we were tied with them at the end of third quarter,” Kluk said. “We can beat Belen. They’re very beatable. It’s just a matter of staying focused for four quarters.”