Boys basketball: Toppers downed in tourney final, 75-57

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By Mike Cote

ESPAÑOLA — Even with a few hours before the Class AAAA boys basketball bracket is formally announced, it might be a bad bet to go against the Española Valley Sundevils.


After being idle for an entire week, one might wonder how the Sundevils were going to start Saturday night’s District 2AAAA championship game against the Los Alamos Hilltoppers.

The Sundevils answered that question early, going on a 10-2 run midway through the first quarter. The Sundevils rolled to an impressive 75-57 victory over the Hilltoppers to claim the district tournament crown in front of a raucous, near-sellout crowd of hometown fans.

Los Alamos, which had brushed one of the biggest thorns of its season out of its paw Thursday night when it dropped Capital, generally played a decent game Saturday night but simply ran into a buzzsaw at Española Valley.

“We moved the ball well enough,” Los Alamos head coach Alan Kirk said following the contest at Edward Medina Gymnasium. “We had fewer turnovers than the last time we played them and we only lost that game by three. (The Sundevils) worked on stopping Alex (Kirk) a little more. It was pretty physical in the post, but he’s used to that.”

Alex Kirk, Los Alamos’ star center who was named the 2AAAA Player of the Year Saturday night, finished with 21 points, a good total but less than half of his total from the teams’ Feb. 17 meeting.

In that game, Kirk dropped in 44 points, including hitting 20 of 20 free throw chances. Los Alamos nearly pulled off an upset but Española Valley held on in that game for a 74-71 win.

The Sundevils (25-2 overall, 9-0 in 2AAAA) will very likely be seeded second when the Class AAAA brackets are announced at noon — fans can watch the selection show on the Internet at www.nmaafilms.tv — behind defending state champion Roswell.

Despite Saturday’s loss, Los Alamos is all but assured of a top 8 spot as an at-large entry, although, as it has learned in the last two seasons, that hardly guarantees a first-round home game in the playoffs. Although Los Alamos has been the higher seed in each of its opening round game the past two seasons, it has had to go on the road.

Rodney Coles, Española Valley’s lightning-quick point guard, did much of his damage Saturday night to open the game, scoring 10 points on 4 of 4 shooting from the floor.

Coles finished with 20 points to lead the Sundevils, while center Gabriel Rodriguez had 11 of his 18 points in the second quarter.

Los Alamos trailed 20-6 after one quarter but played virtually even with Española Valley for the next two quarters.

Wade Archuleta had one of his better offensive outings of the season for Los Alamos, scoring 11 points and dishing out six assists. Shooting guard Zach Parks finished with 11 points as well.

“I’m not upset,” Kirk said. “I though we could’ve played better, but we’ve played them three times. We weren’t going to come in here and surprise them…They wanted to send a message.”

Saturday’s game was the second straight time Los Alamos and Española Valley have met in the district championship game. Española Valley prevailed in their 2009 meeting 56-49.

It was Española Valley’s fourth straight 2AAAA tournament title.