.....Advertisement.....
.....Advertisement.....

Boys basketball: Los Alamos and Wingate will meet in first round of Ben Lujan Tournament Thursday

-A A +A
By Mike Cote

After four long-distance games, the Los Alamos Hilltopper boys varsity basketball team will be able to get to bed at a decent hour every night this weekend.The Hilltoppers, who have traveled to far-flung places such as Farmington, Belen and Silver City over the course of the last 12 days, will take part in the Ben Lujan Tournament starting Thursday in Pojoaque.The Hilltoppers will be in the premier game of the tournament Thursday when they take on the Wingate Bears at 2:30 p.m. All tournament games are scheduled to be played in Ben Lujan Gymnasium in Jacona.Los Alamos head coach Alan Kirk is excited heading into the tournament because of what he’s seen out of his team in recent weeks. The ’Toppers are sitting on a 6-1 record, which include the four straight road wins over Piedra Vista, Farmington, Belen and Silver.Along with the solid road wins — Los Alamos won three of its four road games by double-digit margins — Kirk said he’s very happy that, despite Alex Kirk and Nik Allen having put up big numbers in the last two Hilltopper outings, lots of people are contributing to the effort, particularly off the bench.Los Alamos, for the first time in recent memory and perhaps the first time ever in this tournament, is on the same side of the bracket as the host Pojoaque Elks. Pojoaque faces Peñasco at 8:15 p.m. Thursday, and the winners of those two games will square off in the tournament semifinals Friday.But the ’Toppers will still have to get by the Bears.Wingate has gotten off to a 2-2 start on the season, winning its first game then losing two straight before bouncing back to beat Ruidoso in its most recent outing Dec. 7.Kirk said Wingate will try to do many of the same things that Silver tried in Saturday’s game.“Wingate will be an up and down team,” he said. “They don’t have a lot of size, but they like to get up the floor in a hurry.”The Bears have just one player, center James Ransom, listed above 6 feet. Only two other players are listed above 5-foot-9.However, the Bears have put up some impressive scoring numbers. They’ve scored better than 60 points in three of their four games, including an 83-22 dismantling of Aztec in their season opener.Kirk said his team has looked good in practice in preparation for the tournament and should be ready for what Wingate might throw at it.Los Alamos won this tournament in 2006, knocking off Pojoaque in a thrilling championship game, 77-75. Los Alamos held a 56-43 edge after three quarters, but Pojoaque pumped in 32 points in a wild fourth quarter, nailing four 3-pointers in the last eight minutes.To win this season, Los Alamos may have to get by Marin Catholic, a team from Kentfield, Calif., in the Bay Area.Marin Catholic, a private school, is 3-2 in the Marin County Athletic League, doesn’t score a lot of points, but doesn’t give up a lot of points, either. Averaging its five games, Marin has scored just 46.4 points per game, but gives up just 45.2 points per game.Marin will take on Mora in the first round Thursday at 5:30 p.m.Kirk said he wouldn’t be terribly surprised to see Socorro (5-2), which plays Dulce in the first round, make a serious run toward the finals as well. The Warriors are among the taller teams in the tournament with a pair of 6-4 posts, and can put points on the board. They hung 101 points against Las Vegas Robertson, and been held under 61 points just once this season, in their season opener.The Ben Lujan Tournament, however, is their first venture out of Socorro this season.Tournament host Pojoaque has won four of five to open its season, including a win over Bernalillo, Los Alamos’ District 2AAAA foe, Dec. 8 at Bernalillo. Pojoaque did lose its most recent contest, to Dulce, in the final round of the Grants Invitational Friday.Along with Allen and Kirk, who combined for 49 points against Silver — Kirk turned in a triple-double in that game while Allen flirted with a triple-double against Belen — Ben Allen added 16 points and five rebounds.Doug Hardy and Martin Romero have provided spark off the bench in recent games, something Los Alamos has been glad to have in this part of its season.