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Both the Los Alamos Hilltopper boys basketball team and the Taos Tigers wanted to start Saturday’s game well and both did. But only the Hilltoppers were able to sustain it.
Los Alamos survived an initial push by Taos in a District 2AAAA game Saturday night. Spearheaded by Max Suazo, the Tigers held the lead several times throughout the first 4 minutes of Saturday’s ballgame.
However, the Tigers started to turn the ball over in the latter part of the first quarter and Los Alamos took advantage. Los Alamos closed out the quarter on a 14-2 run and rode that momentum to a 77-55 victory at Griffith Gymnasium.
Not only did the Taos turnovers slow its initial push, Los Alamos quickly got back to doing what it does best: getting the ball into the low post for easy buckets. No one benefited from that more Saturday night than did forward Austin Wolstein.
Wolstein finished with a career-high 24 points Saturday, hitting 12 of 15 shots from the floor. Wolstein found himself open on numerous occasions under the basket and the Hilltopper guards, who had one of their best passing nights of the season, got him the ball through the Taos defense’s pressure.
“We kind of attacked the press,” Wolstein said afterward. “Before, we weren’t attacking, but we started trying to throw the ball through it and it really worked. We got layups and it also helped that we made those layups.”
In the teams’ first meeting Jan. 20 — which was also Los Alamos’ District 2AAAA opener — the Hilltoppers got some of those same looks under the basket but couldn’t convert.
Getting the ball into the bucket wasn’t a problem for the Hilltoppers Saturday, as they shot 32-for-55 from the floor (58.2 percent), one of their best shooting nights of the year.
In the early part of the game, Suazo, who was held scoreless in the Jan. 20 meeting, hit four quick shots including a long 3-pointer to give the Tigers some desperately-needed momentum.
The Tigers, who are playing their final season in Class AAAA for at least awhile, have struggled and are sitting at the bottom of the district standings, winless (0-5 in 2AAAA, 3-14 overall) and still smarting over a 4-overtime loss to Bernalillo a week earlier.
Los Alamos (15-6 overall, 3-1 in 2AAAA) had consistent scoring all night long. After dropping in 24 in the first quarter, it came up with 18 points in the second quarter and 19 in the third.
Wolstein and Hilltopper 6-foot-11 center Alex Kirk both finished with 24 — Kirk matched his point total from the previous meeting — and Zach Parks finished with 22 on 8 of 11 shooting from the floor. Parks also picked up 8 assists.
Suazo led Taos with 20 points and had a fine defensive night, earning four steals.
Los Alamos has just four games remaining in the regular season, including Monday’s game against Capital which was rescheduled from last week.
Wolstein said after the game that the moving of the game shouldn’t be a major issue — the game was postponed due to adverse travel conditions.
“It’s just playing basketball,” he said. “It’s not a big deal. Just give us a game. We’re ready to go.”
NOTES: Los Alamos stayed put in this week’s Class AAAA coaches’ poll. Los Alamos earned 55 points in the poll, which kept them in the sixth position ... Roswell garnered 10 first-place votes in the same poll to remain in first place, while Española Valley was second.