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Boys basketball: Allens spearhead dramatic comeback as Toppers stun Jaguars in 2AAAA

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By Mike Cote

Had Tuesday night’s boys basketball game ended 10 seconds earlier than it did, it might have been subtitled “As the Ankle Turns.”But, as with any good soap opera, the twins arrived to wreak havoc.Los Alamos’ Hilltoppers lost their marquee player, center Alex Kirk, after an ankle injury when he landed on another player’s foot following his only field goal of the game, that coming with 2:34 remaining in the first half. Kirk warmed up with the team at the half, but would quickly go back to the trainer’s room and wouldn’t return for the balance of the contest.But in the final seconds of play, Hilltopper guards Ben and Nik Allen helped propel their team to a dramatic comeback as the Hilltoppers upset the Capital Jaguars 51-49 at Griffith Gymnasium.With 7.0 seconds left in regulation and Los Alamos trailing by three, Nik Allen launched a 3-pointer from about two feet beyond the circle which hit nothing but net.Then, with Los Alamos applying full-court pressure, Ben Allen stole a pass at half court, zipped the ball to Nik Allen, who dumped it to a cutting Martin Romero. Romero laid the ball in off the glass as the final buzzer sounded to give the ‘Toppers the win in Tuesday’s crucial District 2AAAA contest.After the game, Nik Allen said the game-tying shot wasn’t event supposed to go to him.“We were looking to kick it out to Alan (Trujillo),” he said. “He was covered, but they gave me the 3 and I took it and I hit it. It was a good one to hit.”With about 11 seconds remaining, Trujillo went out to the right wing. Allen got the ball to him, but the Capital defense collapsed on him quickly.Trujillo passed the ball back out to the top of the key, where Allen had a crack of daylight.Capital, which went into Tuesday’s game having previously beaten Los Alamos this month — a 52-44 nondistrict win at the Poe Corn Invitational Jan. 5 — tried to push the ball up the floor to get a final shot off before the buzzer, threw a high pass toward the half-court line, but Ben Allen plucked it out of the air.Allen found his twin brother near the top of the key, and Nik found Romero sprinting down the left side of the court.“I saw Martin streaking in and laying it in,” Los Alamos head coach Alan Kirk said. “I looked around for an official and they ran right by me, so I figured it must have been good.”The entire Jaguar bench and most of their crowd got up and starting waving their arms, hoping the shot had gotten off before the buzzer.The ’Topper faithful, however, streamed out of the bleachers jumping and shouting, celebrating the win.The steal was the second of the quarter for Ben Allen.“We all knew we couldn’t let them get behind us,” Ben Allen said. “He (the Capital player) looked like he was going to pass the ball right to me.”Tuesday’s comeback win was, among many other things, rather improbable.Kirk didn’t get much going on the offensive side of the court before he was injured, but in just a quarter and change had already recorded six blocked shots.Those swats were a big part of the reason Los Alamos held Capital to just a 5-for-22 performance from the floor in the first half (22.7 percent).But things got complicated in the second half, with Kirk’s absence and Ben Allen picking up his fourth personal foul with less than a minute gone by in the third quarter. Prior to earning his fourth foul, Allen had scored 11 points for the Hilltoppers, the only ‘Topper with more than four.But Nik Allen and Doug Hardy came up big in the third quarter with the two starters on the bench.Nik Allen dropped in nine of his 17 in the third quarter — he hadn’t scored by the half — hitting all three of his field goal chances, while Hardy picked off a Capital pass and went down the floor with it, burying a jumper to start a rally. Los Alamos had been down as many as 11 points in the third quarter following a Dylan Chavez bucket at the 4:52 mark.The early part of the third quarter was the only time Tuesday the Jaguars (11-4 overall, 2-1 in 2AAAA) showed much offensive spark.After its dreary performance in the first half, Capital hit four of its first seven shots from the field to go up 32-21 at the 4:52 mark. But Capital, thanks in no small part to a stingy Hilltopper defense, had just four points the rest of the way.Throughout the first half, the Jaguars’ saving grace was that it was getting to the free throw line and converting. The Jaguars were 12 of 14 from the stripe before the break, but were just 5 of 11 in the second half.Los Alamos (14-7 overall, 2-1 in 2AAAA) made it to the line just twice in the first half, but went 11 of 16 in the second half, with Nik Allen hitting 8 of 10 chances.Meanwhile, Austin Wolstein, Los Alamos’ post who lamented before Tuesday’s game that his junior varsity playing time was being cut so he could be used more for the big squad, hit a pair of layups coming off the low block that proved to be huge down the stretch.Trujillo, who played extra minutes with Kirk’s absence, had a good showing on the defensive end.“That’s stepping up big,” Ben Allen said of the team’s effort in the latter half. “We were all worried when Alex went down. We didn’t know if he would play or not…We knew we couldn’t turn the ball over, and Austin Wolstein and Alan Trujillo came up big for us.”The win put Los Alamos in a tie for second place in the 2AAAA race with Capital.Kirk’s status wasn’t known after the game, but he has a week to heal before the team’s next against Bernalillo.