Boys basketball: LA opens district Wednesday vs. Taos

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By Mike Cote

In Alan Kirk’s four-tiered boys basketball season system, tier one is finishing up and tier two is just about to start.

Los Alamos ended its first phase with a solid 12-6 record. However, the most heated phase of the season gets going Wednesday when the District 2AAAA season opens.

The Hilltoppers will host the Taos Tigers, the only one of the five district teams without at least 10 wins so far.

Taos was the only district team in 2007-08 that didn’t qualify for the Class AAAA playoffs and with just three wins in 15 outings so far, the Tigers could be desperate to make a statement during the district season. That’s something Kirk, the head coach of the Hilltoppers, is acutely aware of preparing for Wednesday’s game.

The Tigers, who only boast one player above 6-foot-1, aren’t likely to be much of a match for the Hilltoppers in the paint, especially with 6-foot-11 center Alex Kirk clogging up the middle.

Coach Kirk thinks Taos will try to spread the floor on offense and send guards in to try to beat Los Alamos with its speed.

Following Wednesday’s game, the Hilltoppers will have three days of practice to prepare for their next opponent, the biggest potential dark horse in the district, Bernalillo.

“They’re always tough down the stretch,” Kirk said of the Spartans (10-7), who have most of their team back from last season. Coach (Terry) Darnell’s teams always compete. He’s got size, he’s got scorers. It’s going to depend on how you come out and play.”

Bernalillo, however, will be looking to crack the district’s big three, which include Los Alamos, Capital and hands-down district favorite, Española Valley.

The Sundevils (16-2) are the top-rated team in AAAA according to the most recent coaches’ poll — a new poll is scheduled to be released Wednesday. However, as most fans in the Valley are acutely aware of, the Sundevils were the top-rated team virtually wire-to-wire last year, but were upset by Albuquerque Academy in the semifinals of the state playoffs.

Española Valley, which scored 90-plus points on several occasions last season, hasn’t been putting up those kind of offensive numbers this season. Kirk attributes that not to a huge drop-off in scoring ability, but rather that opposing teams have been extra careful not to try to run the court with the Sundevils.

“Española’s playing awfully well,” Kirk said. “Us and Capital should have close games. We’ll see who can step up now.”

Interestingly, Española Valley didn’t ramp up its nondistrict competition much this season. One of the knocks against it last year was a weak schedule.

Kirk said that he doesn’t think his team is playing anywhere near its best basketball right now, especially after losing three of its last five games and getting taken to the wire Friday by a Del Norte squad he thought Los Alamos should’ve put away more easily.

Capital, the other team expected to make a run at a 2AAAA regular season title, has put up inconsistent point totals throughout its nondistrict season.


A quick look: District 2AAAA boys basketball

Bernalillo Spartans

2008-09 record: 10-7

Key wins

Dec. 20 vs. Santa Fe, 65-57

Jan. 15 vs. Belen, 61-57

Key losses

Dec. 19 vs. Capital, 64-32

Dec. 22 at St. Michael’s, 62-50

Dec. 31 vs. St. Pius X 74-64

A team not a lot of people are talking about, but one that could certainly bite anyone who overlooks it. Consistency has been a problem for the senior-laden Spartans, but if they get hot, a high seed in the district tournament isn’t out of the realm of possibility.

Capital Jaguars

2008-09 record: 11-6

Key wins

Dec. 2 at Pojoaque, 59-42

Jan. 3 vs. Los Alamos, 69-65

Key losses

Jan. 2 at Roswell, 68-49

Jan. 17 vs. St. Michael’s, 45-35

Capital is a tough team to judge, because it has played many of its opponents at least twice so far. The win over Los Alamos at the Poe Corn Invitational will give the Jaguars a psychological advantage when the teams meet Feb. 4 at Griffith Gym. Seniors Deven and Jordan Bolich are among the best overall athletes in the district.

Española Valley Sundevils

2008-09 record: 16-2

Key wins

Dec. 2 at Santa Fe, 58-49

Jan. 7 at. St. Michael’s, 47-44

Key losses

Jan. 6 vs. Hope Christian, 57-47

Once again, the Sundevils are the team to beat. They ran the table in district last season and believe they can do it again this season. Española Valley has already beaten Capital (twice) and Taos at nondistrict tournaments. Guard Matthew Brito is dangerous despite having subpar games against Los Alamos last season.

Los Alamos Hilltoppers

2008-09 record: 12-6

Key wins

Dec. 9 vs. Belen, 67-62

Dec. 11 at Albuquerque Academy, 55-52

Key losses

Nov. 29 at Santa Fe, 67-62

Jan. 13 at St. Pius X, 65-55

Los Alamos will have its work cut out for it on the road to a district title. While things started off like gangbusters this season, the Hilltoppers have cooled off of late. Despite some quality wins, they must still prove they belong among the upper echelon of Class AAAA. A great place to do so would be Jan. 30 at Española Valley.

Taos Tigers

2008-09 record: 3-12

Key wins

Dec. 12 at Kirtland Central, 67-63

Key losses

Dec. 5 vs. Questa, 82-76

Jan. 1 at Goddard, 69-45

Jan. 6 vs. Belen, 75-48

The Tigers have accomplished little in the nondistrict season that would lead anyone to believe they can compete in 2AAAA. Taos will likely be relegated to the district basement unless it can turn things around quickly with its small, sophomore-heavy roster.