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The regular season comes to a close this weekend, but there’s still plenty of basketball left.The Los Alamos Hilltopper girls basketball team has already qualified for the playoffs, and the Hilltopper boys will make an appearance in the District 2AAAA tournament next week with a chance to clinch their spot in the state tournament.Before that, though, both teams will try to close out their regular seasons on high notes. The ’Topper girls will be at Bernalillo tonight and the ’Topper boys will host Bernalillo Saturday.
The Hilltoppers will try to make it a perfect 8-for-8 in their District 2AAAA games this season tonight against the Spartans.While is it technically of no consequence whether Los Alamos wins tonight — it has already clinched the regular season title and a home district championship game in addition to a state tournament spot — it still would love to run the 2AAAA table for the sake of the New Mexico Activities Association seeding committee.Los Alamos would love to be one of the top four teams in the tournament and could strengthen its argument with a good showing in its final two games before the big dance.Bernalillo has already locked up fourth place in the 2AAAA tournament and can’t improve its position. It will host Capital in the first round of the district tournament next week.The Spartans played the Hilltoppers a tougher-than-expected game in the teams’ first meeting Feb. 5. The ’Toppers held on for a 51-44 win in a game where the Spartans connected on only six of 22 free throws.Los Alamos led by as many as 20 in the fourth quarter but Bernalillo rallied late in the contest.Taylor Ealey scored 17 points for the Hilltoppers, while Bryanna Richins had 15 and Sarah Ethridge added 12 against the Spartans, who simply had no counter to the Hilltoppers’ height down low.
Coaches Terry Darnell of Bernalillo and Alan Kirk of Los Alamos are in something of an interesting position.Other than pride, which will be a big factor for Los Alamos’ seniors in the final regular season home contest of their careers, these teams have little to gain or lose from Saturday’s contest at Griffith Gymnasium.Los Alamos can neither improve nor worsen its position in the 2AAAA tournament. Bernalillo, barring an enormous upset in the concurrent Taos-Espaola Valley game, won’t improve or worsen its position in fourth place, which means it will host the first round 2AAAA game against Taos’ Tigers.The winner of the Taos-Bernalillo game will play Los Alamos for the right to go to Capital for the district semifinal game. The winner of that game will play Espaola Valley for the 2AAAA title, but more importantly, lock up a berth in the state playoffs.With a potential Los Alamos-Bernalillo game next week, both coaches might elect Saturday not to tip their hands much, even though the two teams have already met this season.In that game at Bernalillo, Los Alamos came away with a 79-76 win, one of its biggest wins of the season. That road victory came without the services of its starting center Alex Kirk, who suffered an ankle injury in the previous game against Capital.With 16 seconds left in the contest and Los Alamos trailing by one, Chris Hejde hit a 10-foot jumper to give the Hilltoppers the lead. Ben Allen, who had a career-high 28, canned a pair of free throws with less than three seconds left to ice the game.Nik Allen finished with 16 points and Michael Helland added 10 for the Hilltoppers. Ivan Luna had 17 for the Spartans.