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With a District 2AAAA championship an alive-and-well possibility, the Los Alamos Hilltopper boys basketball team took a big step toward that end Friday night.
Los Alamos crushed the Bernalillo Spartans Friday night in a district contest at Griffith Gymnasium 70-48 and can clinch the regular season district title with a win Wednesday.
Wednesday’s contest will be a big one, however, as the Hilltoppers will take on the top team in Class AAAA, the Española Valley Sundevils.
For now, though, the Hilltoppers are savoring Friday night’s win over a dangerous Bernalillo squad.
Bernalillo went into Friday’s contest off a huge win over the Capital Jaguars Tuesday, 48-38, but except for a push in the third quarter, didn’t get much going against Los Alamos.
“We came out strong,” Los Alamos head coach Alan Kirk said. “We played straight-up defense, we knew on offense we needed to move the ball around with our passing. We knew we needed to rebound and get second shots. We came out and did what we needed to early.”
The Hilltoppers’ guard play, which was a huge factor in their win over the Spartans Jan. 27 at Bernalillo, was again excellent Friday.
Zach Parks punished the Spartans, scoring 17 points. Parks hit a pair of 3-pointers in the first quarter and finished with 12 points in the first half as Los Alamos jumped out to a 38-18 advantage at the break.
Parks was one of three Hilltoppers to finish in double-figures Friday. Doug Hardy had 11 points from the point guard spot, while center Alex Kirk dropped in a game-high 23.
But it was Los Alamos’ defense effort that helped make the game a runaway.
The Spartans’ main scoring threats, Kellen Quintana, Chris Garnand and Ivan Luna, combined for just 15 points.
Los Alamos jumped out to an 18-4 lead after one period.
The Spartans (14-10 overall, 3-3 in 2AAAA) tried to get back in the game in the third quarter with their most productive period of the game. They hit four of their seven 3-pointers in the quarter — Ralph Armijo had two 3s in the third period — but didn’t make much of a dent in their deficit, as the Hilltoppers led 57-38 going into the final period.
Armijo finished with 11 points to lead Bernalillo. Manuel Perez finished with eight points.
Kirk hit seven field goals in the contest — finishing with 16 points in the middle quarters — and grabbed 13 rebounds. Jack Russell finished with nine points and had some good looking assists on the night.
Despite being happy with the effort on both ends of the court, coach Kirk said he wasn’t terribly happy with his team’s free throw shooting, something that’s been hot-and-cold throughout the season.
The Hilltoppers hit on just 22 of 38 at the line (57.9 percent), a performance they may not be able to afford this week.
Los Alamos (17-7 overall, 5-1 in 2AAAA) can win its first 2AAAA title since 2005-06, with a victory over Española Valley, which has won the last two district titles.
“We don’t want to go out with that Capital game,” coach Kirk said of his team’s Feb. 4 loss to the Jaguars, a game Los Alamos led by 12 points after three quarters for its only loss of the district season. “We’ve got to take care of each game as they come. The Española game is going to be fun. I can’t tell you how excited we are.”