Boys basketball: Toppers down Scorps at home

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By Mike Cote

Even with his team’s 55-38 victory over the Farmington Scorpions Saturday night, Los Alamos boys basketball head coach Alan Kirk gave his team a lengthy post-game speech.

The subject: preparation.

Los Alamos came out flat to start Saturday’s contest at Griffith Gymnasium, possibly the by-product of playing in its third game in five day.

But Kirk reminded his team that its time to make ready for a big week this week is going to be virtually nonexistent.

“There’s not going to be a lot of serious work time,” he said following Saturday’s win. “We basically have to do it on the fly. We’d better be prepared mentally and we’d better be prepared physically. There’s no physical preparation time between then and now.”

Los Alamos (5-0) is gearing up for arguably its most challenging week of the nondistrict season. It kicks off a long week Tuesday with what could be a crucial contest at home against Belen, a Class AAAA program that Kirk has a lot of respect for, then it goes to the Joe Armijo Classic Tournament, hosted by Albuquerque Academy, a tournament which features some of the top programs in and around the Duke City.

Despite its struggles in the first half against Farmington, Los Alamos allowed just single-digit scoring in each of the first three quarters and took full control of the contest by the midpoint of the third quarter.

The main focus for Scorpions (0-3) was to limit the touches down low to the Hilltoppers’ big man Alex Kirk, something they did effectively for much of the first half. Kirk, who averaged 28.3 points in his first four games of the season, had just nine heading into the break.

Los Alamos had just five field goals at the half, but hit 11 of 14 from the foul line, including 7 of 8 by Kirk. Farmington, meanwhile, couldn’t take advantage of its good defensive showing in the first half, scoring just eight in the first quarter and eight more in the second quarter.

Hilltopper forward Austin Wolstein said after the game his team was having trouble getting on the same page early.

“We wanted to come out and get on top, but we couldn’t get it to work,” Wolstein said. “Our plays did work and we kind of let them back in.”

Wolstein said Los Alamos wasn’t moving well without the ball in the first half. Only in the second half, when the offensive motion picked up did Los Alamos start to pull away.

Opening the third quarter, Los Alamos went on a 12-0 run extending to the 3:54 mark with guard Zach Parks picking up a steal-and-bucket to give his team a 35-16 edge.

“You’ve got to move that zone,” coach Kirk said afterward. “You’ve got to move those players out and try to find those creases and gaps.”

Wolstein put in five of his 13 points in the third quarter by getting entry passes when cutting to the basket. Meanwhile, Kirk hit a pair of 3-pointers after escaping the crowded low post.

For the game Los Alamos managed just 16-for-42 from the field, but hit 18 of 27 chances at the free throw line.

Wolstein was 5 of 7 from the floor.

Kirk finished with a game-high 19 points, as well as 10 rebounds despite seeing limited time in the fourth quarter. Parks finished with 11 points.

For Farmington, Josh Howerton had 13, 11 of those coming in the fourth quarter with the outcome mostly settled.

Chandler Joe had 12 points for Farmington.

Wolstein said he’s aware his team has some taller orders to fill this week.

“We still need to come out hard,”

Los Alamos knocked out Farmington in the opening round of the Class AAAA playoffs in March, taking a 48-41 win in the Four Corners.