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Boys basketball: LA opens 2AAAA at Taos

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By Mike Cote

The solution to winning the District 2AAAA boys basketball race this season could come down to a very simple equation.“The district champ’s got to hold home court,” Los Alamos Hilltopper head coach Alan Kirk said.Taos will have a crack to see if it can hold its home court Wednesday when it hosts the Hilltoppers in the 2AAAA opener for both schools.Winning the district, as usual, won’t be easy. The district could be the best in Class AAAA top to bottom, with Española Valley, Capital and Los Alamos all with a pretty good shot to win. Bernalillo, should it get hot, could also have a say in which squad moves on to the postseason.As always, the top two district squads automatically qualify for the Class AAAA state championship tournament, which kicks off in early March. There will also be two at-large bids handed out by the tournament’s selection committee, one of which Los Alamos received last season, finishing third in what was last year the best district in the state.The Hilltoppers go into Wednesday night’s game in Taos with a record of 12-6. They were 10-2 before a four-game losing streak, albeit against some top-shelf competition like Capital, Highland, Pojoaque and St. Pius X.Los Alamos rallied in its final two nondistrict games of the season, blowing out both Del Norte and Farmington — the latter being a rematch from Dec. 8, a game also won by the ’Toppers.Española Valley is the reigning 2AAAA champ and will likely be just as tough this season. The Sundevils have dropped just one contest this season, their season opener to Gallup.Since then, they’ve reeled off 17 straight wins.“They’ve got a lot of scorers; they’ve got a very deep bench,” Kirk said. “They press very physically. They’re going to slap at the ball and trap you, make you make mistakes passing the ball.”The Sundevils have been aided this season by Matthew Brito, who transferred from Pojoaque to take over the team’s point guard duties. Kirk said Brito is one of the best playmakers in the state and someone the rest of the district is going to have to keep their eyes on.The ’Toppers will get their first look at the Sundevils Saturday at home. The ’Toppers are the only 2AAAA team the Sundevils didn’t play during the nondistrict season, meeting the other three squads at various nondistrict tournaments and beating them all.Those games, however, do not factor into the 2AAAA race.Los Alamos was in the thick of three of its four recent losses — it struggled mightily against a stronger and faster Highland squad — and should be feeling better after its two decisive wins.Center Alex Kirk, the team’s leading scorer with approximately 21 points per game, has been receiving a lot more attention in the paint by opposing defenses than he had earlier in the season, but has responded well. Kirk has made good decisions with the basketball and has even shown signs of a decent outside game as well.Ben and Nik Allen, Los Alamos’ twin guards, have complimented Kirk, not to mention each other, very well throughout the season as well, averaging around 13 points per game apiece.Also in recent games, Michael Helland has been productive as a spot shooter and is starting to find the net with consistency.Los Alamos, will, of course, take all the scoring balance it can get as the 2AAAA season winds on.The 2AAAA championship tournament will be held the week of Feb 25.