Toppers win on late-game shot

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Boys basketball: Baker converts on third-chance bucket with just 10 seconds left

By Mike Cote

JACONA – It was a wild finish to a tight ballgame Thursday night, but the Los Alamos Hilltopper boys basketball team prevailed over a longtime rival.
Los Alamos traveled just down the road to visit the Pojoaque Elks Thursday night with both teams looking to pick up some momentum as they get ready to start district play next week.
With only 10 seconds remaining, Los Alamos’ Nick Baker scored on a third-chance bucket after a mad scrum for a pair of rebounds. With time left, however the Elks moved the ball back down the court, but couldn’t get off a decent look late, persevering a 44-43 victory at Ben Lujan Gymnasium.
It was a big road win for the Hilltoppers, who have picked up victories in two of their last three contests against quality opponents and might have had a chance for a third but for one disastrous quarter Tuesday night against St. Pius X.
“It feels really good. We wanted to win this game and we’re definitely glad we were able to do it,” Baker said after the victory over the Elks.
Baker, who has been Los Alamos’ MVP through the nondistrict season, finished with a team-high 11 points, but none of them bigger than his final bucket.
Salvador Salaiz misfired on a shot from the corner with about 15 seconds remaining. The rebound bounced to the other side of the bucket straight to Daniel Salazar, who took one step and put up a short jumper that was also off.
Baker and two Elk defenders went up for the ball, but Baker got up higher to get his fingertips on the ball. His short jumper was good and left the Elks scrambling.
The Elks wasted no time getting the ball back down the court, but elected not to use any of their three remaining time-outs to set up a play. The Elks worked the ball inside with just a few ticks left, but the Hilltopper defense didn’t allow them any kind of look. A late jumper from about 12 feet was well off.
On the other end, a Hilltopper time-out erased a potential basket and forced the last-second heroics.
Following a missed shot by Pojoaque, Los Alamos was streaking down the floor for a fast-break chance, something it had done effectively all game, but with an excellent 2-on-1 scoring chance, Hilltopper head coach Fil Dominguez called a time-out before the Hilltoppers got a shot off.
Dominguez said after the game he saw Salazar get his feet tangled near the sideline and was worried about a potential turnover.
Out of the time-out, Los Alamos attempted to set a high pick-and-roll play, but couldn’t set up the shot it was hoping for. However, Los Alamos managed to grab two straight offensive rebounds — something that was hard to come by for either team Thursday — including Baker’s putback.
Neither team was able to pull away from the other throughout the fast-paced contest.
Pojoaque was led by Matthew Herrera, who hit six straight shots in the second half to finish with 15 points.
Thomas Russell had 10 points for Los Alamos, eight of those coming in the first half.


Los Alamos 44, Pojoaque 43

Los Alamos    13   11  11   9—44
Pojoaque        11   10  14   8—43

Los Alamos — Thomas Russell 5-8 0-0 10, Daniel Salazar 3-8 0-0 8, Nate Carver1-4 0-0 3, Nick Baker 5-11 0-0 11, Salvador Salaiz 3-5 1-1 8, Franklin Archuleta 0-0 0-0 0, Xavier Dennison 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 18-37 3-3 44.

Pojoaque — Ryan Koller 0-2 1-2 1, Joshua Valdez 3-5 0-2 7, Brandon Bustos 4-8 0-0 9, Matthew Herrera 6-11 0-0 15, Robert Ortiz, 1-1 1-2 3, Juan Rios 2-2 1-1 5, Derrick Velasquez 0-0 0-0 0, John Ainsworth 0-4 0-0 0, Anthony Rodriguez 1-1 0-0 3. Totals 17-34 3-7 43.

3-point goals — LA 5-13 (Salazar 2-3, Carver 1-3, Salaiz 1-3, Baker 1-2, Russell 0-2), Poj 6-15 (Herrera 3-4, Bustos 1-5, Valdez 1-2, Rodriguez 1-1, Ainsworth 0-3). Total fouls — LA 9, Poj 10. Fouled out — None. Technicals — None.