By Tony A. Archuleta
Size-wise, Hot Springs is matching up with, and even exceeding, some of the top varsity basketball teams in the state.
The Tigers haven’t exactly been dominant –yet– but head coach Gus Cardona is heading into the District 3-4A slate in late January with very high expectations.
After running visiting East Mountain out of Tiger Gym on Tuesday, Dec. 16, Hot Springs played in the Wingate Holiday Classic, losing to 5A Farmington, winning a thriller over Navajo Pine and finishing off with another victory over the host team, Wingate.
Following last year’s impressive run in the second half of the season, when Cardona took over the program, the Tigers were already looking forward to this season with the return of some accomplished big men – including Darin Welty, Josh Koch (6-foot-5), K.C. Swaim (6-7), Ryan Johnson, Christian Hopkins, David Gurule, Michael Eaton and Cody Moore.
Add incoming transfers Cody Thornton (6-3) and Michael Luna (6-6), and the Tigers are positively loaded in the frontcourt.
Rounding out the team are backcourt veterans Nick Moreno, Alex Romero and Chito Barrera, along with varsity newcomer Ivan Galacia.
Going 3-1 for the week gives Hot Springs (4-2 overall) a winning record heading into the holiday break, and Cardona is obviously pleased, but his primary take-away from the tournament:
“Even though we towered over everybody, it wasn’t enough,” he said. “We have to continue boxing out and putting a body on (opponents during offensive and defensive rebounding plays). I am very proud of our boys as they continue to work together.”
HSHS – 79
EAST MT. – 59
At Tiger Gym, Hot Springs was in a dogfight with the Timberwolves early on in the game, but midway through the second quarter, a crisp pass inside from Nick Moreno to K.C. Swaim led to a three-point play that gave the Tigers a 26-18 lead.
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