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Boys basketball: Sundevils are still the team to beat in District 2

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By Mike Cote

Emotions are riding high heading into the start of the District 2AAAA boys basketball season.

Nowhere more so than in Española Valley, where last week, according to the Associated Press, someone tried to set fire to the front door of Sundevil head coach Richard Martinez’s home. While it was unknown if the fire-setting, which was bad enough to send Martinez’s mother to the hospital for smoke inhalation, had anything to do with basketball, it does speak about how seriously fans in the valley are taking the 2009-10 season.

As for the Los Alamos Hilltoppers, they are scheduled to open their district season Wednesday night when they travel to Taos.

Los Alamos heads into this 2AAAA season tied for the fourth-highest win total in Class AAAA – with Albuquerque Academy and Grants – but will start on something of a sour note, dropping a game head coach Alan Kirk felt it should’ve won Friday night at Del Norte. Los Alamos struggled to slow down Del Norte’s perimeter shooting as the Knights knocked down 10 3-pointers to win 61-57.

While the Hilltoppers were down to just eight roster players due to injury and other reasons, they missed six open layup attempts early in the game which would’ve put the Knights in a big early hole had they converted.

District 2AAAA looks to be a three-team battle this season, with the Hilltoppers, Española Valley’s Sundevils and Capital’s Jaguars set to duke it out for the championship. The Sundevils (15-1) are the reigning 2AAAA champions and may be better this season than they were last season.

The Jaguars (4-6), meanwhile, have gotten out of the gate a little slowly this season but are still a potentially dangerous team.

The big difference between this season and the 2008-09 season, however, is that the Bernalillo Spartans (3-14), a distinct threat in recent years, may not be a factor at all in the current race.

But following the loss to Del Norte and another disappointing road loss 10 days earlier against Volcano Vista, Kirk said his team isn’t in a position to overlook anyone.

“You can’t let your guard down,” Kirk said. “You can’t take anyone for granted. You go into any of these games thinking you’ll get an easy win and you’re going to get burned.”

The Tigers (2-9) haven’t demonstrated much, if any, improvement from last year despite veteran coach James Branch now steering the team. The Tigers’ coaching situation has been very unsettled for the past three years, although they’ve managed to stay at least competitive in most of their games so far.

Wednesday’s game — which was still on schedule as of press time today — will be Taos’ second district game. It lost its 2AAAA opener last Wednesday at Española Valley.