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While the District 2AAAA boys basketball season is just a week old, the Los Alamos Hilltoppers have a big contest on their hands tonight, one that could go a long way to determining its district fate.
The Hilltoppers will host their arch-rivals, the Española Valley Sundevils, tonight at Griffith Gymnasium. Tickets for the game went on sale at noon at the Griffith Gym box office.
Tip off for the varsity game is slated for 7 p.m.
Both teams have something at stake tonight. Española Valley, with a victory, could again cement itself as the dominant team in the district, a title that was somewhat up in the air as the district season began.
Española Valley will roll into town off a big victory Saturday against the Capital Jaguars. Española Valley (11-5 overall, 2-0 in 2AAAA) earned a 54-45 decision at Capital, which, like Española Valley, is considered among the top Class 4A teams in the state and the squad which appears to have the best chance to end the Sundevils’ four-year reign over 2AAAA.
Los Alamos, meanwhile, struggled in a loss Saturday against Santa Fe. Los Alamos, which rolled over the Bernalillo Spartans in the teams’ district opener Wednesday, could’ve locked up an early tie at the top of the district standings had it gotten by Santa Fe.
Instead, however, the Demons held serve at home, winning 51-38. In that game, the Hilltoppers simply had no answer for the Demons’ 6-5 center Orlando Echave, who dropped in a game-high 23 points.
At the same time, Los Alamos (5-15 overall, 1-1 in 2AAAA) hurt its chances considerably with cold inside shooting — the Hilltoppers missed five open shots from within about six feet of the basket — and committing 20 turnovers.
Interestingly, the Sundevils also struggled against the Demons. In those teams’ district opener Wednesday, the Sundevils barely escaped on their home floor, winning 62-61.
Hilltopper head coach Matt King said prior to the start of the 2AAAA season, he thought the Demons would be a real factor in the district race and so far, they’ve proven to be.
The Sundevils feature one of the top guards in the state, if not the top guard, in senior Rodney Coles. Coles is equally effective driving to the basket as he is from shooting outside.
Los Alamos’ challenge against Coles could well be containing him from the outside. The Hilltoppers’ interior defense, except for Saturday, has been outstanding for the month of January and if the Hilltoppers can limit Coles’ good looks from the outside, they might be able to keep things close.
Once again, however, Los Alamos’ offense will need to find some consistency, as Española Valley this year is once again among the most prolific scoring squads in the state and it will be difficult for Los Alamos’ defense to keep the Sundevils down entirely.
The Sundevils are currently ranked as the No. 2 team in Class 4A. They had been No. 1 since the preseason until two weeks ago when they were overtaken in the state’s coaches’ poll by Gallup despite the fact the Sundevils earned a 69-57 win over the Bengals early on in 2010-11.