Boys basketball: Toppers knocked off by Huskies

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By The Staff

Heading into the Joe Armijo Invitational Tournament, Alan Kirk figured if the Los Alamos Hilltopper boys basketball team played Hope Christian, it would be in the championship game.

And while the two teams met Saturday in the final round, it was in the fifth-place contest.

That game was all Hope Christian Huskies, as they topped the Hilltoppers 81-54, handing the Hilltoppers their second loss in three days.

A day earlier, Los Alamos bounced back from an opening round loss to Rio Rancho by knocking off an old rival, St. Pius X, 70-57.

The Armijo Invitational this season featured one of the toughest slate of teams seen in a regular season tournament in some time, with Española Valley, La Cueva and the host Albuquerque Academy Chargers all in the mix.

“It was loaded,” said Kirk, Los Alamos’ head coach. “It was probably one of the best lineups in a tournament I’ve ever played in. Between the top team in 3A, good competition among the 4As and top 5As, it gave us a good opportunity to see other very good teams.”

Friday, St. Pius, the three-time defending Class 4A champion, came out firing from the perimeter, hitting 11 3-pointers in the contest. St. Pius led 31-30 at the half, but Kirk switched up his defense in the second half to try to slow the long-range barrage down.

Hilltopper center Alex Kirk finished with 25 points against the Sartans, while Zach Parks had 23 and Wade Archuleta finished with 10.

Nick Ortiz and Kellen Brennan combined for 33 points and 9 3-pointers for the Sartans.

Saturday against Hope, Los Alamos struggled in the odd-numbered quarters and the Huskies took advantage.

The Huskies, considered by some to be the best team in the state, regardless of classification, were upset in Thursday’s first round, losing on a buzzer-beating 3-pointer to La Cueva.

Kirk had another big night for the Hilltoppers, dropping in 24 points, while Parks finished with 16 points. Matthew Murphy paced Hope with 17.

At the foul line, Los Alamos was 24-for-31.

Los Alamos will be off until Dec. 21 when it opens the Ben Lujan Invitational, the second of three straight tournaments it will attend.