Toppers Thrash Tigers

Ivan Balakirev thrilled spectators with a slam dunk in the first quarter as the Toppers took on a long standing foe, the Taos Tigers Tuesday evening in Griffith Gymnasium. As usual with the meeting of these two teams, the action was fast and furious. This game was no exception, but the Toppers were to emerge victorious 82-62. Photo by John McHale/

The Topper defense kept the Tiger offense off balance throughout the game. Photo by John McHale/

By RJ Montaño
Los Alamos Daily Post

The Los Alamos Hilltoppers took out some frustrations of a recent losing streak on the visiting Taos High School on Tuesday night, trouncing the Tigers 82-62.

The ‘Toppers jumped out to a quick 12-6 first quarter lead, capped by an authoritative two-handed slam dunk by senior Ivan Balakirev leading to a Taos timeout. The Tigers regrouped and nailed a pair of threes during a 9-2 run to lead Los Alamos 15-14 at the end of a first quarter that had plenty of action but also plenty of missed shots and turnovers by both teams.

Taos built a six-point lead before Los Alamos was able to regroup and go on a run of their own behind five three-point baskets. Ramon Roybal, who missed the last game at Santa Fe due to injury, came off the bench and was a spark to the ‘Topper offense. Roybal hit a pair of threes on consecutive possessions and would set a textbook screen in the backcourt that temporarily knocked the Taos defender out of the game, but not before hitting the third three-pointer of the quarter.

Antonio Trujillo would hit the last three pointer of the quarter as time expired when the ball hit the front of the rim and bounced above the backboard before falling into the net. Los Alamos took a 38-24 lead into the break.

Los Alamos would not let their foot off the gas in the second half, outscoring Taos 21-14 in the third quarter. The ever-consistent Troy Hammock put a soft touch on a trio of baskets while Gavin Campos quietly collected his 16th point of the game.

The ‘Toppers toyed with several lineups, giving some inexperienced players valuable game action. The Tigers tried to make a run to get back into the game, but Michael Naranjo put a stop to it scoring eight of his 15 points in the fourth quarter.

The ‘Toppers were lead in scoring by Campos with season high 20 points, followed by Naranjo with 15. Hammock chipped in 14, while Roybal added 11 points to give Los Alamos four double figure scorers.

“The experience that Gavin and David Owen have gotten while [Roybal and Trujillo] have been out is paying off,” Head Coach Mike Kluk said about his guards. “They looked comfortable tonight, a little less sped up, a little less deer in the headlight look. That’s experience.”

“We got off to a good start which is important and kept it rolling,” Kluk added. “We hit five three’s in a stretch of the second quarter, that broke it open a bit and they were pumped up going into halftime.”

Los Alamos returns to action at home this Friday night at 7pm against Artesia. The game is a rematch of a first round game from the Poe Corn Roswell Tournament from earlier this season where the ‘Toppers held a large halftime lead only to let it slip away in a 52-43 loss.

When asked about the upcoming game, Kluk said, “It was the tale of two halves [at Roswell}. We really should have beaten them. Artesia came out after halftime and punked us. We can’t let that happen again.”

The Toppers take to the floor Tuesday evening to take on the Taos Tigers in Griffith Gym. Photo by John McHale/

Gavin Campos was hot under the basket scoring a game high of 20 points. Photo by John McHale/

Antonio Trujillo, back from injury is always a force and a crowd pleaser. Photo by John McHale/

Troy Hammock is always a force on both defense and offense. He scored 14 points for this game. Photo by John McHale/

Michael Naranjo turned in another outstanding game and finished in double digits with 15. Photo by John McHale/