LA buries Cimarron to advance

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By Mike Cote

JACONA — If only they were all this easy.

While it would’ve been tough for Class A Cimarron to pull off an upset over the third-ranked Class AAAA team in the state, Los Alamos, during their game Thursday, falling behind 21-2 after the first quarter wasn’t going to make the quest any easier.

The Hilltoppers held Cimarron’s Rams without a field goal for more than 11 minutes to start the contest while doing virtually anything and everything they wanted on the other end of the floor to win by a final of 73-31.

Thursday’s meeting between the two teams came in the first round of the Ben Lujan Invitational. The ninth-annual tournament, hosted by the Pojoaque Elks, will continue through Saturday.

Los Alamos moves on in the championship bracket and will play at 8:15 p.m. tonight against the winner of the late game, Pojoaque and Dulce. The outcome of that contest wasn’t known as of Thursday night, but Pojoaque went into Thursday’s game as a heavy favorite.

In other tournament first round games, Socorro knocked off Peñasco 73-63 and Grants pulled off a mild upset against Mesa Vista, winning 61-57. Socorro and Grants meet in the other tournament semifinal game at 7 p.m. tonight.

The entire second half was played under the mercy rule. Los Alamos took a 36-point lead after the first half to force the running clock in the second half.

In the contest, all but one of the Hilltoppers’ 11 roster players put points on the board.

Once again, Hilltopper 6-foot-11 center Alex Kirk led the squad, dropping in 24 points, 16 of those coming in the first half.

Kirk was matched-up  with the Rams’ 6-foot-6 center, senior Jake Arko, one of the taller small-school players in the state.

However, Arko proved to not to be much of a match for Kirk, one of the premier players in the state. Kirk swatted three of Arko’s shot attempts in the contest.

Arko, however, did lead the Rams with 10 points, most of those coming during the time Kirk was on the bench in the second half.

Guard Jack Russell had 15 points for the Hilltoppers (7-3) coming off the bench Thursday, while guard Zach Parks finished with 11.

Los Alamos head coach Alan Kirk liberally rotated his lineup throughout the game, often substituting full teams in during the second half.

“It’s important to remind the kids who don’t get as many minutes that they’re going to get those minutes,” Kirk said. “When they do get in the ballgame, we expect them to perform.”

Defensively, Los Alamos forced 24 Cimarron turnovers, 18 of those coming in the first half. Cimarron had more turnovers (9) than shots taken from the floor (7) in the first quarter.

JR Chalmers had a solid showing Thursday, putting in four points and grabbing three steals.