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Boys basketball: Toppers pick up third straight win

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By Mike Cote

The big man is back.How big of a role he plays in for the next few games is, at this point, very much in question, however.Alex Kirk, hobbled by an ankle injury Jan. 29 against Capital, was on the floor for the Los Alamos Hilltopper boys varsity basketball team. He played approximately 20 minutes, scoring 18 points as the Hilltoppers knocked off the Taos Tigers 71-47 in District 2AAAA game Saturday night at Griffith Gymnasium.Hilltopper head coach Alan Kirk said the 6-foot-9 sophomore is about 70-80 percent healed up from his injury.“He’s got to play himself back into game shape,” Coach Kirk said. “That’s tough.”But Los Alamos, which played a brilliant game and a half without his services, turned in another big performance with its marquee player seeing limited action.Ben Allen, who had 28 points in a big road win Wednesday night at Bernalillo, dropped in 14 more Saturday, while twin brother Nik Allen chipped in 15 points. Martin Romero had five big offensive rebounds to aid the Hilltoppers, who feasted on second-chance opportunities all night long.Los Alamos got everyone on its roster into the game, with all but three players scoring on the night.The win upped Los Alamos’ district mark to 4-1 (16-7 overall), with three 2AAAA contests left to play.Coach Kirk gave the Allens the lion’s share of the credit for the current three-game district win streak.“Ben and Nik a lot of times don’t get the credit they deserve,” he said. “All of us know what they can do.”Ben Allen had 10 points in the first half, including a 3-pointer at the buzzer, fed to him by Alan Trujillo after an initial 3-pointer was off-target. Nik Allen was 6 of 9 shooting from the floor.Taos (5-11 overall, 0-4 in 2AAAA) was led by Carlos Martinez’s 14 points. Emilio De Herrera and Ryan Ortega combined for 17 points off the bench for the Tigers.The Tigers were troubled all night long by pressure in the backcourt, leading to 14 turnovers. Ben Allen and Romero combined for four steals.Los Alamos is currently sitting in second place in the chase for the 2AAAA regular season title, one game behind the top-ranked team in AAAA, Española Valley. It can erase that lead Tuesday when the two teams meet, although the ‘Toppers will have to attempt to knock them off in the unfriendly confines of Edward Medina Gymnasium.The Hilltoppers never trailed in Saturday’s contest, taking a 13-8 lead after one quarter. The spread remained between five and eight points throughout the rest of the half before the ‘Toppers, led by the defense, started to pull away early in the third quarter.Los Alamos’ defense allowed just 10 Tiger points in the third quarter while picking up eight of the team’s 27 third quarter points in transition.