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MORIARTY — The main goal of the Moriarty Pintos was to keep the game close from the get-go Tuesday night.
But after a furious start and a furious comeback in the first half, the Pintos didn’t have much left for the second half against the Los Alamos Hilltoppers in a nondistrict boys basketball game.
The Hilltoppers took control of Tuesday’s game early, then held on through a big first quarter comeback by the Pintos. The second half was all Los Alamos, however, as it took a decisive 75-52 road victory.
Los Alamos went on a 7-2 run in the latter half of the first quarter to take an 18-11 advantage over Moriarty, but scored six points in the final 1:06 of the quarter to shave the lead down to one point.
Moriarty came out of the gate like gangbusters Tuesday, pushing the ball up the floor at a furious pace off the opening tip. Los Alamos countered with a running game of its own, which was for the most part run effectively by guards Doug Hardy and Jack Russell.
Both Hardy and Russell finished in double-figures Tuesday night, with Hardy dropping in 17 points and Russell adding 14, two of the three Hilltoppers to do so.
“We’re tired of hearing all the stuff that Los Alamos doesn’t have any guards that’s been in the press,” Hardy said after the game. “We have a good set of guards. We’re tough to trap. We’re a tough set to beat. We play unselfish basketball, and that helps, too.”
Hardy and Russell were under fire early from Moriarty’s backcourt of Alec Plante, Corey Bond and Marc Villanueva. The Pinto guards played very aggressive defense, slapping dribbles and passes away several times in the first half which turned into quick points on the other end of the floor.
The Pintos forced five Hilltopper turnovers in the first quarter, one of which turned into a hoop-and-harm fast break by forward Pat Corr at the 1:06 mark to cut the Hilltopper lead to three.
“We started out trying to do some different things in that first quarter and we let them get back in,” Los Alamos head coach Alan Kirk said. “We didn’t step up to the physical play Moriarty came out in, which we knew they were going to do. Once we realized they weren’t going away, they stepped it up.”
Los Alamos pushed its edge back up to eight points in the second quarter before another Pinto run got the game back within one.
But with all its running at the opening, Moriarty started to wear down late in the second quarter and Los Alamos, which looked fresher despite keeping up for most of the half step-for-step, took control.
Hilltopper center Alex Kirk, who has been a force throughout the first three games of the season, had another big outing Tuesday. He finished with 32 points — matching his total from Saturday in a loss to Santa Fe — including 21 in the first half.
For the game, Kirk was 10-for-15 from the field — including a 3-pointer — and 11-for-12 from the free throw line.
Along with his big point total, Kirk also pulled down 14 rebounds, five on the offensive end, and finished with seven blocked shots. He just narrowly missed his second triple-double of the season after getting 20 rebounds and 10 blocks Saturday night.
Russell, to go along with his 14 points, had a team-high seven assists Tuesday. He scored nine of his 14 points in the fourth quarter to help seal the victory.
Hardy, for his part, was 7 of 11 from the floor.
Down low, Michael Helland had seven points and tied for the team lead in rebounds with 14.
“I think this was a good game,” Hardy said, noting that the Hilltoppers seemed mentally to be out of Saturday’s contest. “This game we showed what we had. I’m excited for the rest of the season. Everyone on this team has the ability to score and we distribute well.”
Defensively, Los Alamos stymied Moriarty throughout the second half, relegating them mostly to low-percentage shots from the corners. Moriarty connected on just 9 of 30 shots in the second half and just three field goals in the third quarter while Los Alamos moved out to a 20-point lead.
“We were able to work on some different defenses,” coach Kirk said. “We made some minor changes in this game and we looked at a couple of different people in a couple of different areas of the floor.”
Tuesday’s game was the first of three games in three days for Los Alamos (2-1), which will take on a powerful St. Michael’s team in its home opener Thursday before hosting Farmington Saturday.
For the Pintos Tuesday, Bond finished with 16 points, just two points after the half, and Corr added 13.
Los Alamos JV 61,
Moriarty JV 39
The Hilltopper junior varsity picked up its first win of the season Tuesday, thumping Moriarty.
Los Alamos steadily pulled way throughout the contest, opening up a 13-7 win after one quarter, 29-20 at the half and 42-27 after three quarters.
Ryan Schelft finished with 10 points but injured his knee during the game. Joey Martinez had nine points and Brandon Owens and Austin Wolstein both finished with eight.
Also Tuesday, Los Alamos’ C team picked up a big 59-29 win to improve to 2-1 on the season.