Shortly after his team defeated Bayfield High School two weeks ago, Montezuma-Cortez High School boys basketball coach Michael Hall spoke about the difficulty of his upcoming road trip through the San Luis Valley.
“We’ve gotta get ready for this weekend,” Hall said at the time. “We’ve got Centauri, who is up there at the top, and Alamosa on Friday night. Those are two hard teams, and it’s hard to play in that valley.”
Panthers fall to 2-2 in Intermountain LeagueJust how hard his team’s trip to the valley would be became evident on Jan. 24 when the Panthers squared off against Alamosa High School and dropped a hard-fought contest to the Mean Moose by a score of 68-48.
Although the game’s 20-point final spread was indicative of a blowout, M-CHS remained competitive throughout much of the contest and found itself trailing 46-40 early in the fourth quarter after a 3-pointer by senior Teagan Whiteskunk and a free throw by senior Adrian Mark.
A 14-0 run by Alamosa over the next four-plus minutes put a win out of the Panthers’ reach, however. Whiteskunk led M-CHS in scoring with 15 points, sophomore John Thomas Carver scored 13 points, senior Titus Jackson scored 8 points and Mark scored 6 points.
Alamosa was led offensively by Ian Jackson, who scored a game-high 24 points and Brenden Crowther, who scored 16 points.
After its loss to Alamosa, M-CHS faced off against Centauri on Jan. 25 and lost 69-55 after mounting several spirited comeback attempts in what turned out to be a back-and-forth game.
Struggling to find their offensive rhythm against Colorado’s sixth-ranked Class 3A team throughout much of the first half, the Panthers trailed 23-13 at the end of the first quarter and 38-20 at halftime.
Refusing to concede defeat, however, M-CHS went on a 9-0 run early in the third quarter and found itself trailing 42-29 with approximately 14 minutes left in the game.
A 3-pointer by Thomas Carver and two free throws by senior Andrew Wood near the end of the third quarter further cut into Centauri’s lead as M-CHS found itself trailing 53-44 entering the final quarter of play.
A 5-0 run by Centauri to begin the fourth quarter put the game out of reach, however, and when the final buzzer sounded, M-CHS found its record sitting at 8-5 overall and 2-2 in the Intermountain League.
Whiteskunk led the Panthers offensively against Centauri with 13 points. Wood and Jackson both scored 10 and Mark scored 9.
Panthers look ahead to tough weekend matchupsHoping to right its ship after last weekend’s tough losses, M-CHS will be on the road to face Monte Vista High School today before returning home to play Pagosa Springs High School on Feb. 1.
Although M-CHS has had Monte Vista’s number in recent seasons, this year’s Pirates have shown themselves to be a viable opponent, as it will enter this weekend’s contest with a 5-7 record overall and a 1-3 record in the IML.
Leading scorers for the Pirates this season have been junior Tyrese Otero, who has averaged 12.4 points during the five games he has played, and junior Andres Maestas, who has averaged 10.8 points during the five games he has played.
Given Monte Vista’s propensity to shoot 3-pointers and push the pace, the Panthers’ success will likely depend on their transition defense and their ability to close out on outside shooters.
After its game against Monte Vista, M-CHS will return home to play Pagosa Springs in a rematch of an early-season game between the two teams that resulted in a 48-47 Panthers’ win.
In order to come through with another victory against the Pirates, M-CHS will need to limit Pagosa’s second-chance opportunities and control senior Mason Snarr, who has averaged a team-high 13.2 points per game this season.
“Pagosa is a very tough team ...” Hall said earlier this season. “Pagosa is big ... and they use their posts.”