Boys basketball: LA earns big win in season opener

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By Mike Cote

There were plenty of ups and downs for the Los Alamos Hilltopper varsity basketball team in Tuesday’s opener.But, much like Los Alamos’ impressive 72-48 win over the Kirtland Central Broncos, there were more ups than downs.Los Alamos went up big during the second quarter and never let the Broncos back into Tuesday’s game, the 2007-08 season opener for both squads, which was played in front of an average-sized crowd at Griffith Gymnasium.An impressive 25-3 Hilltopper run during a five-minute stretch of the second quarter, in which the ’Toppers were converting both in their half-court offense and in transition, was ultimately the difference in the contest.“I liked how we moved the ball in this game,” Hilltopper guard Ben Allen said afterward. “I didn’t know how we’d kick it out, but the movement was great. Everybody stayed relaxed, and that really helped.”Allen, for his part, hit five straight buckets in the first half, four of them coming during the second quarter run. He finished the game with 18 points, better than everyone on the floor except Los Alamos center Alex Kirk.Kirk, Los Alamos’ 6-foot-9 center, was able to pound the ball inside against the much smaller Broncos, who had just four players listed over 6 feet and none over 6-3. While he struggled to find his range during the mid-portion of the game, Kirk simply started to throw the ball down in the final period, finishing the fourth quarter with 11 of his game-high 22.Kirk finished the night with four slam dunks, three coming in the fourth quarter.Los Alamos had good scoring balance on the night, although Hilltopper head coach Alan Kirk said he would’ve liked another player besides Allen and Kirk get into double-figures.Alan Trujillo, a forward for the Hilltoppers, had eight points coming off the bench, the third-best point total of their night.Both teams had their bumps early. Right at the top of the contest, the teams traded several turnovers, with the Broncos coughing up the ball eight times in the first quarter and the Hilltoppers giving it back six times.But the ’Toppers would eventually settle down and would give up the ball just eight more times in the game.Not so for the Broncos, who were pushing the ball up the floor nearly out-of-control virtually the entire contest, trying not to allow the Hilltopper defense to set up.Their strategy had only limited effectiveness, due to the turnovers and the spotty shooting from the floor. The Broncos made just 8 of 26 field goals in the first half (30.8 percent).Los Alamos, meanwhile hit 50 percent from the floor in the first half.“We have one of the best shooting teams I’ve ever seen,” Allen said. “Anybody on this team can hit the big shots, and they can hit the little shots. Those percentages should go up.”The Hilltoppers finished the game shooting just under 50 percent (31-for-68).“Overall, I’m pleased,” Kirk said. “There’s a long list of things to work on, but Ben and Nik (Allen) played their style of ball.”The two biggest concerns Kirk had following Tuesday’s game were fouls and foul shooting.While Los Alamos (1-0) didn’t need to shoot any better than its 9-for-18 performance from the stripe — Kirtland Central would cut the lead down under 20 only a handful of times in the second half — Kirk said that needs to get better because more closely-contested games are just down the road.Meanwhile, Los Alamos had three players in foul trouble early in the second half — both Doug Hardy and Nik Allen had four fouls by the two-minute mark of the third quarter.Ben Allen said he thought the team was getting a little winded and maybe a little lazy after taking the lead, and started playing too much defense with its hands.Kirtland Central ended up going to the line 23 times, 15 times in the second half, but converted just nine of its attempts.But one big plus for the Hilltoppers Tuesday was the overall effort. Kirk said he was very happy to see the general hustle of the team, making plays for loose balls, taking charges and doing many of the little things that don’t necessarily show up in the box score.“I saw more guys on the floor (Tuesday) than I’ve seen in awhile,” Kirk said. “There were a lot of scrum balls.”He credited Martin Romero, just two practices removed from the football season, with a big portion of that spark coming off the bench.For the Broncos (0-1), both starters Josh Atcitty and Tony Mike finished with 12 points, a fair share of those points coming in garbage time. No other Bronco finished with more than six.In fairness, the Broncos were playing somewhat shorthanded Tuesday. Kirtland Central is still alive in the Class AAAA football playoffs, and is hosting top-ranked Artesia in the state semifinals Saturday.

Los Alamos 72, Kirtland Central 48LA (1-0), KC (0-1)

   1Q 2Q 3Q 4Q Tot.Kirtland Cent. 10 10 8 20 48Los Alamos   12 28 11 21 72

Kirtland Central: Ryan Yazzie 2-3 0-0 4, Damian Charley 3-9 0-0 6, Leonhard Niemann 1-4 1-2 4, Josh Atcitty 4-12 3-6 12, Tony Mike 5-10 2-7 12, Donald Brannon 1-3 0-1 2, Nathan Billey 1-6 1-3 4, Elijah Harvey 0-2 1-2 1, Tray Clawson 1-5 1-2 3. Totals 18-54 9-23 48.

Los Alamos: Ben Allen 9-14 0-0 18, Michael Helland 2-5 1-3 5, Nik Allen 1-4 4-7 6, Chris Hejde 1-5 0-0 2, Alex Kirk 10-20 2-3 22, Alan Trujillo 4-6 0-0 8, Doug Hardy 1-4 0-1 2, Matt Leyba 1-2 0-0 3, Martin Romero 2-8 2-4 6, Mike Matteson 0-0 0-0 0, Isaac Schilling 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 31-68 9-18 72.

3-Point FG: Kirtland Central 3-13 (Niemann 1-2, Atcitty 1-5, Billey 1-5, Harvey 0-1), Los Alamos 1-10 (Leyba 1-1, B. Allen 0-2, N. Allen 0-2, Hejde 0-2, Kirk 0-1, Trujillo 0-1, Romero 0-1).

Turnovers: Kirtland Central 29, Los Alamos 14.

Total fouls: Kirtland Central 18, Los Alamos 20.

Fouled out: None.

Technicals: B. Allen.