Over the course of three games at the Rocky Top Tournament in La Jara last weekend, the Montezuma-Cortez High School boys’ basketball served notice to teams around the state that it will be a force to be reckoned with this season.
Opening the tournament against Moffat County High School on Nov. 29, the Panthers came out firing on all cylinders and built a 21-3 lead by the end of the first quarter before coasting to an 82-53 victory.
Junior Titus Jackson, who missed last season with a leg injury, paced M-CHS with 21 points, and junior Teagan Whiteskunk contributed 20 points. Senior forward Cordell Baer dominated the paint on his way to 16 points and senior Michael Diaz sparked his team with 14 points overall.
“It was a pretty fast-paced game,” M-CHS head coach Michael Hall said. “Our big guys, Cordell Baer and Jens Jorgensen, had good games, and we had four kids score in double figures. All of the boys played really well.”
Following its victory over Moffat County, the Panthers returned to action against Las Animas on Nov. 30 and delivered a scintillating offensive performance that culminated with a convincing 93-32 victory.
Although final statistics were not available for the contest, Hall said that several players scored in double figures, and he praised the effort of his bench players, who he said delivered season-best performances.
“We were a lot faster and a lot bigger and our athletic ability showed,” Hall said. “Josh Chupp came in and hit two 3-pointers and played some good defense, and Blake Keetch did a great job of leading our second unit.”
The Panthers’ final game of the tournament came against Olathe High School on Dec. 1, and although the contest was at times competitive, M-CHS emerged with a convincing 68-55 victory.
“In the past, we haven’t competed with teams like Moffat County and Olathe, but this year, we’re up there with those teams,” Hall said. “Against Olathe, Cordell Baer had 14 points and 14 rebounds and really played well.”
Among the M-CHS players who received all-tournament recognition were Whiteskunk and Baer, who were both named to the tournament’s first team. M-CHS improved to 4-0 on the season with the victories and will next face off against Ridgway High School at home on Dec. 8.
“We have played really well so far this season, and to have our offense averaging (79 points per game) is exciting,” Hall said. “All of our boys are playing really well.”