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The big question heading into the District 2AAAA boys basketball season wasn’t who would win, but rather who would finish second.
The Los Alamos Hilltoppers can answer that question tonight if they win: the Española Valley Sundevils.
The Sundevils were favored to win 2AAAA this season, arguably the toughest district in Class 4A, as the district season started in late January. But now, the Sundevils are just one game away from a runner-up spot.
Los Alamos and Española Valley will play in front of what should be a sold-out Griffith Gymnasium tonight. Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m.
Should Los Alamos win, it will clinch the district title — its first since the 2005-06 season — and relegate Española Valley to second place.
Should Española Valley prevail, Los Alamos could still take the district title by virtue of a tiebreaker if the Sundevils stumble against Bernalillo Saturday and the Hilltoppers beat Capital in their season finale.
Los Alamos has already clinched no worse than the district’s runner-up spot. It clinched that with Saturday’s 70-48 drubbing of Bernalillo Friday night.
Although Los Alamos would love to take the 2AAAA regular season title and the automatic bid to the state tournament that is part of the package, both Los Alamos and Española Valley are virtual locks to make the state Class 4A tournament field.
Los Alamos (17-7 overall, 5-1 in 2AAAA) knocked off Española Valley Jan. 30 59-53 at Edward Medina Gymnasium, its biggest win of the season so far.
In the Hilltoppers’ follow-up game, however, they let a 12-point lead slip through their fingers in the final period as they were upset by Capital 61-58.
Interestingly, that loss hasn’t come back to hurt the Hilltoppers yet, especially after back-to-back wins over Taos and Bernalillo, not to mention Bernalillo’s 48-38 victory over Capital Friday night which dropped Capital down to fourth place in the district race — Bernalillo (14-10 overall, 3-3 in 2AAAA) owns the head-to-head tiebreaker over Capital (12-11 overall, 2-4 in 2AAAA).
In the Jan. 30 game, Los Alamos went up by 12 points late in the third quarter but Española Valley stormed back to tie the game at 52 with 1:27 remaining.
With just 30 seconds remaining, however, Los Alamos guard Zach Parks intercepted an Española Valley pass, was fouled, and hit both of his free throws with more than 3,000 Sundevil fans screaming at him.
Los Alamos held the dangerous Sundevil outside shooters to just two 3-pointers in the second half.
Hilltopper center Alex Kirk finished with 30 points, hitting 16 of 22 free throws. Michael Helland had seven points and Doug Hardy finished with six.
For Española Valley, Matthew Brito had 18 points and Ryan Salazar had 12 points.