As the Montezuma-Cortez High School basketball team raced onto its home court on Dec. 5, fans roared their approval. First-year head coach Tim Robinson exuded confidence from the bench, and players appeared focused on the task at hand.
Then, as if to confirm that a new era has dawned on the M-CHS girls basketball program, the Lady Panthers played well over four quarters for an impressive 54-24 victory.
Junior guard Myra Simmons scored a team-high 17 points for the Lady Panthers, while junior forward Paige Yarbrough overcame early foul trouble and controlled the paint while chipping in 12 points of her own.
Several players, including Taelynn Comisky, Ayanna Silas, Dimery Plewe and Kailey Case, starred on the defensive side of the ball as the Lady Panthers utilized a half-court trap to force turnovers and set up easy transition buckets.
“We’re working together and making good passes,” said Simmons. “When someone gets down, we’re picking them back up, and we’re playing with lots of energy.”
The team struggled through the opening minutes and trailed 8-6 at the end of the first quarter after Yarbrough was relegated to the bench after picking up two early fouls.
The Lady Panthers began to find their rhythm early in the second quarter, thanks to the long-range shooting of Simmons, who knocked down long 3-pointers on consecutive possessions before adding a third 3-point field goal later on to put M-CHS ahead 16-14.
After Monticello defenders converged on Simmons outside, Yarbrough asserted herself in the paint and scored eight straight points to put the Lady Panthers ahead 24-14. In eight explosive minutes, Simmons scored 10 points, and Yarbrough added eight.
“In the first quarter, I was just not feeling the game,” Simmons said. “I knew I needed to make some points for my team to get the excitement going. I just felt good after that with the crowd yelling.”
“I saw Myra (Simmons) kick it up, so we just kind of made eye contact, and everyone started feeding in,” she said. “(Monticello) just couldn’t stop (our inside game).”
Up 28-14 to begin the third quarter, the Lady Panthers built a 36-18 lead heading into the final quarter. In the final eight minutes, Presley Frost and Silas scored four of their six total points as M-CHS pulled away.
The Lady Panthers’ victory was their third straight after the team lost its season opener to Moffat County and subsequently defeated Las Animas and Olathe at the Centauri Tournament last weekend.
Both Simmons and Yarbrough were named to the all-tournament team thanks to impressive performances against tough competition.
With an overall record of 3-1, M-CHS will return to the court to prepare for the Falcon Tournament in Falcon, which will begin on Dec. 13.
“We need to improve our rebounding for sure,” said Yarbrough, when asked what her team will focus on during the upcoming week. “We also need to make clean passes.”