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Boys basketball: LA takes on Deming in first round

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By Mike Cote

Paul Maynes doesn’t sugar coat much.Maynes, head coach of the Deming Wildcats boys basketball team, didn’t care for what he read in the Los Alamos Monitor’s story about Hilltopper head coach Alan Kirk’s reaction to Los Alamos’ seeding in the upcoming Class AAAA tournament.“All these coaches knew they’d have to travel,” Maynes said. “It doesn’t matter what seed you got…I don’t pay attention to the seedings. That’s the way it is. If we lived in Los Alamos, we’d just get on the bus and come down here and play. You wouldn’t hear me complaining about it.”Los Alamos will meet Deming in the first round of the AAAA playoffs Saturday night. Los Alamos, the seventh seed in the tournament, will have to travel to Deming, the 10th seed for Saturday’s game. Most teams in the tournament with higher seeds will host a game, but district tournament champions, like Deming, are guaranteed a home game.The Hilltoppers and the Artesia Bulldogs will both have to travel this weekend for games despite having better seeds than their opponents.Kirk wasn’t very happy about having to travel this weekend despite being in the top half of the tournament bracket. In the story, Kirk said “I don’t think it’s my fault your district’s weak,” which Maynes took umbrage at.“You’d never catch me, even with a powerhouse team, saying something like that,” Maynes said.Maynes, in his first season coaching the Wildcats, guided them to the 3AAAA tournament championship, nipping Santa Teresa in the tournament final, 42-40. Deming is in one of AAAA’s two three-team districts, sharing 3AAAA with Santa Teresa and Silver.Deming beat Silver in all three meetings this season, its last one coming Feb. 28, in which Deming grabbed a big 78-56 win.Maynes said he’s been very impressed with his team this season, which he thought would be in more of a rebuilding mode.Deming (12-17) took its lumps early in the season, losing 10 of its first 11 while playing Albuquerque Academy and several big schools from New Mexico and Texas.Deming is led by junior Anthony Lopez, a 5-foot-11 forward who is knocking in around 18 points and grabbing nine rebounds per game. On the other side of the paint, Joshua Uzueta, at 5-11, had some big district games for the Wildcats. Uzueta has a quick step to the basket and a good touch on his jumpers.Kirk said he’s fully expecting Deming to pressure the ball and try to win in transition. If Los Alamos can contain that, Deming will at least try to keep the ball moving in the half court.“They have a couple of guards that can penetrate, then they’ll kick the ball out,” Kirk said. “The posts are used for pick-and-rolls and free up the guards to shoot.”Los Alamos will dance with who brung it, trying to create mismatches in the low post, and will rely heavily on Austin Wolstein, Matt Leyba and Alan Trujillo to provide support for center Alex Kirk.Kirk, the 6-9 sophomore who has established himself as one of the top players in Class AAAA this season, finished the regular season with 18.8 points per game, 6.2 rebounds and 5.7 blocked shots.To slow down the Deming guards, Hilltoppers Ben and Nik Allen, the team’s best defenders, will be busy on the perimeter. The two averaged 2.7 and 2.5 steals per game, and combined nearly 26 points a game between them during the regular season.The Allens ended with spookily-similar statistics. They finished within a point-and-a-half in shooting percentage from 2-point range (60.76 to 59.48), a tenth of a point in 2-pointers made (3.7 to 3.6) and half a rebound per game (5.2 to 4.7).Los Alamos made the playoff field as an at-large selection on the strength of its 18-10 record and third place finish in District 2AAAA, considered by many to be one of the toughest districts in the state this season, regardless of class.Even though the Hilltoppers believe they’re the stronger team in Saturday’s match-up, they’re not taking the Wildcats lightly.“Deming is going to be formidable,” Kirk said. “We don’t want to look ahead. This is an important game. Every game is one step at a time…(but) I’m confident if we show up and do what we’re supposed to we’ll have a good game. We have to get beyond the distraction of traveling. I think we can do that. Then we’ll move on.”