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  • Boys’ basketball gets started against tough opponents

    Heading into the 2018-19 season, there are plenty of factors working against the Los Alamos High School boys’ basketball team. More than 80 percent of last year’s scoring has been lost to graduation. There are only five players returning with any kind of varsity experience. And to make matters even tougher, the New Mexico Activities’ Association gave teams less time than ever to practice before the season begins. 

    Official practices got underway following the conclusion of fall sports, more than halfway through November. With only a few days of practice under their belts, the Hilltoppers will step on the court for the first games of the season this week, with home matchups against two of the toughest teams on LAHS’ schedule, St. Pius and Bernalillo. 

    The season gets underway at 7 p.m. Thursday, with a home matchup against St. Pius, a team that has historically been one of the top programs in the state. Last year, the Sartans went 16-11, and 4-4 in district play. The Hilltoppers did defeat St. Pius in Albuquerque, though, 70-56. 

    It was one of the top games for LAHS in the 2017-18 season, and was the team’s last true road win of last season. 

  • Hilltoppers pick up big win in season opener

    In the first game of the Lanse Carter era, the Los Alamos High School girls’ basketball team played with a sense of intensity and fearlessness missing in recent years. With a combination of tough defense and good shooting, the Hilltoppers started the season 1-0 with a 62-44 win over St. Michael’s. 

    From the opening tip-off, it was clear the Hilltoppers would enjoy a big size advantage. Five of the Hilltoppers stand taller than 5-foot-10, while none of the Lady Horsemen were taller than 5-foot-7. And in the early going, LAHS took advantage, as Natalie Gallegos got near the basket early and scored an easy lay up to get her team on the board. 

    Later in the first quarter, with St. Michael’s closely guarding the area underneath the basket, Gallegos stepped beyond the three-point line and knocked down a shot, something she was unable to do a year ago. 

    The Hilltoppers jumped out to a 14-5 lead after the first quarter, but there was some concern. Junior Becca Green, LAHS’ most dangerous inside presence, was forced to sit most of the first half because of foul trouble. In the first few minutes of the first quarter, she picked up two fouls and did not score in the first half. 

  • LAHS offense struggles in loss to St. Pius

    In the first game of the 2018-19 season, the Los Alamos High School boys’ basketball team struggled offensively against St. Pius, but the group has plenty of reasons for optimism. Despite losing 51-42, many of the team’s young players stepped into new roles and succeeded, and the team showed a level of fight and determination missing at points last year. 

    “The mistakes we made and the problems we had were not from a lack of effort,” LAHS head coach Mike Kluk said. “With a young team this early in the season, I’m happy with that.”

    There is no doubt about this being a young team. Only two players with extended varsity experience return this year, Gavin Campos and David Owen. Campos did not play in Thursday’s opener but was in attendance. 

    Every other player is stepping into an unfamiliar role as the team is made up of two seniors, seven juniors and one sophomore. 

    Early in the game, offense was difficult to come by for both teams as the defenses stepped up. Owen had a chance to help give the Hilltoppers momentum early as he was fouled shooting a three-pointer, but he missed all three of his shots from the line. 

  • Atomic City Update: Carter has Hilltoppers headed in the right direction

    Wow, what a difference a coaching change can make. I know the season is young, and we have only seen a little of Los Alamos High School girls’ basketball coach Lanse Carter, but it is hard to not be at least a little impressed. 

    To put it lightly, the last two years have been difficult to watch for the team. Though there was a lot of hidden talent, the Hilltoppers had trouble on offense, defense, and were constantly out-coached. 

    But Tuesday night in the season opener against St. Michael’s, I saw a completely different team, one that this community should be excited about. Even in pre-game, it was clear something was different. The team’s warm-up was energetic and intense. The team worked on shooting, defense and even getting the ball in bounds under pressure. There was a fire in the girls’ eyes that has been missing for years. It looked like they were extremely well prepared. 

    And that carried over into the game. The girls were aggressive. They were fearless on defense and ferocious on offense.

    The team shot the ball at the first open opportunity throughout the night, and did a great job getting the ball inside to Becca Green and Natalie Gallegos when they were open. 

  • LAHS hockey dominates La Cueva

    The Los Alamos High School hockey team looked to be in midseason form this weekend at the Los Alamos County Ice Rink, defeating La Cueva 5-1 Friday and 9-1 Saturday. 

    The teams battled through snowy conditions at both games, and also dealt with a partial power outage Friday night, but nothing could slow the Hilltoppers down. 

    After going down 1-0 despite dominating the early stages of the game, LAHS got the offense going and never took the foot off the gas. 

    Jacob Dunwoody, one of the Hilltoppers’ top offensive threats, got his team on the board with just over four minutes left in the first period, off an assist from Jared Carnes. 

    Less than two minutes later, Kevin Dors gave the Hilltoppers the lead on an unassisted goal off a rebound in front of the net. 

    Just over a minute into the second period, Carnes extended the lead to 3-1 off an assist from Dara Armstrong.

    To put the game away, Dunwoody scored two more goals the rest of the game, finishing with a hat trick as the Hilltoppers won 5-1. 

    Saturday, the offensive power surge continued, as the Hilltoppers scored three goals in every period and overwhelmed La Cueva. 

  • Rough start continues for boys’ basketball

    With a roster full of players without extensive varsity experience, the Los Alamos High School boys’ basketball team expected some early struggles. Only two players had big roles on last year’s team, and everyone is taking on new responsibilities. Many of the expected issues bubbled to the surface Saturday night, when the Hilltoppers lost to Bernalillo 77-43. 

    The Spartans went 29-2 a year ago, and advanced all the way to the Class 4A state championship game. Many of the guards from that team remain, and Bernalillo has the makings of an offensive powerhouse. 

    It is also a strong defensive team, one that kept the Hilltoppers off balance from the opening tip-off to the final buzzer. 

    “It started bad and got worse,” Hilltopper head coach Mike Kluk said. “They got us out of our rhythm early and we never regained any composure throughout the game.”

    The Hilltoppers’ inexperience showed in the first quarter, as the team struggled to deal with Bernalillo’s press defense, which led to numerous turnovers. 

  • LAHS suffers second half collapse at home

    Two things are certain about the Los Alamos High School girls’ basketball team. First, they are a highly talented group that is exciting to watch. Second, they are still extremely young and have a lot to learn about the game. 

    Both of those were on display Tuesday night at Griffith Gymnasium, where the Hilltoppers jumped out to a 12-point lead against Santa Fe High before ultimately falling 64-56 in a hard-fought contest. 

    Early in the game, it appeared the Hilltoppers were firing on all cylinders, as junior Hannah Sanchez knocked down a pair of three-pointers in the first quarter, and Becca Green and Mattie Ruminer scored on tough shots near the basket. 

    All night long, though, Santa Fe’s Taylor Salazar seemed to be a problem LAHS could not solve. She scored all 13 of her team’s points in the quarter, as the Hilltoppers and Demonettes were tied 13-13. 

    LAHS took over in the second quarter, outscoring Santa Fe 22-10 to take a 35-23 lead. 

  • LAHS soccer standout Hailey signs with UNM

    Following an outstanding career at Los Alamos High School, Alix Hailey has earned a scholarship to play soccer at the University of New Mexico, beginning next fall. 

    Hailey was the leader for the Hilltopper soccer team offensively, and proved to be one of the most dangerous players in the state. 

    She finished the season with 26 goals and 16 assists, and created numerous chances every game. She finishes her Hilltopper career with 58 goals and 47 assists, playing on the varsity team all four of her high school years. 

    “Ever since I started the recruiting process, I have always looked at UNM as one of my best options,” Hailey said. “I used to play for Heather (Dyche), who is the head coach there, and I just love everything she has done with the program and I am so excited to get to be able to play for her.”

    Hailey has been preparing to play at the collegiate level for years, and is excited that the dream has become a reality. 

    “I play on a club team down in Albuquerque, and the purpose of that is to get to that collegiate level, and ever since I was young I have wanted to play at that level,” Hailey said. 

  • Atomic City Update: Focus on 3-pointers continues to destroy fundamentals

    This might sound crazy, especially in 2018, but I am not a big fan of basketball’s three-point shot. Yes, it is exciting and I see it as a necessary part of the game’s evolution. But it has taken over, and not in a good way. 

    There is nothing in sports that excites me more than watching good basketball fundamentals on display. The ability to rebound, dribble and pass are qualities I look for in a great basketball player. 

    I also look at a player’s ability to connect on open shots, particularly layups. Now, night after night, I am seeing these fundamentals fly out the window. It doesn’t matter if I’m watching high school, college or professional basketball, there is just something different. 

  • Basketball teams struggle at early tourney

     For the inexperienced basketball teams at Los Alamos High School, the Capital City Tournament was all about learning and gaining experience. 

    The boys lost all three games at the tournament, though the team showed improvement each day. The girls took home sixth place, defeating Capital in the second round. 

    For the boys, the road through the tournament was a gauntlet of top contenders in the state, pushing the team to improve on both ends of the floor quickly. 

    On Dec. 6, LAHS took on Santa Fe High, widely considered one of the top teams in Class 5A. With a combination of size, shooting ability and a suffocating press defense, Santa Fe dominated the game, jumping out to a 20-1 lead through the first quarter. 

    Though the Hilltoppers were able to produce a slightly more consistent offensive attack in the second quarter, the Demons led 41-16 at halftime, putting the game out of reach. Santa Fe cruised to a 71-30 victory. 

    Turnovers were the major issue for the Hilltoppers in the game, as the young guards consistently had issues getting the ball out of the backcourt.