Throughout much of its nonconference schedule, the Montezuma-Cortez High School boys basketball team was physically superior to its opponents.
The Intermountain League is a different animal, however, and over the course of games against Alamosa High School and Centauri High School last weekend, the Panthers received plenty of bumps and bruises and walked away with one win.
Opening its weekend slate at home against Alamosa on Jan. 18, M-CHS battled hard throughout what turned out to be a back-and-forth contest before ultimately losing, 58-48. Most striking in the contest was Alamosa’s ability to control the offensive glass and score second-chance points.
“We played a lot of teams in the preseason that didn’t match up to our talent, and that showed,” M-CHS senior Jens Jorgensen said. “We’ve got to start playing harder when we play teams like this. The rest of our league is physical, and we can’t be messing around anymore.”
Although its final result against Alamosa was not what the Panthers had hoped for, the team’s performance during the first quarter was solid as M-CHS played lockdown defense and limited the Mean Moose to eight points.
The highlight of the game came at the buzzer of the opening period when Panthers junior Titus Jackson collected a loose ball in the backcourt, took two dribbles and drilled a half-court buzzer beater to put his team ahead 10-8.
“That was pretty cool, I didn’t think it was going in,” said Jackson. “As soon as it went in, I kind of freaked out, and the fans were going crazy.”
After a competitive second quarter that featured a three-pointer from six feet behind the arc by M-CHS senior Michael Diaz, the Panthers entered the halftime break trailing 21-17.
A second long three-pointer by Diaz to open the third quarter drew the Panthers to within a point, but from then on, it was all Alamosa as the Mean Moose dominated the offensive glass and built a 37-26 lead heading into the fourth quarter.
Notably absent from the scoring column throughout much of the contest was M-CHS junior Teagan Whiteskunk, who struggled to find his range while scoring a season-low 10 points. After the contest ended, M-CHS head coach Michael Hall emphasized that even the best scorers have tough nights.
“I think it was just one of those days,” Hall said, when asked about Whiteskunk’s performance. “He was getting good looks at the basket, he just wasn’t knocking shots down. He’ll get over it. He’s a scorer, he knows how to fight through it.”
Scoring leaders for the Panthers included Jackson with 14 points, Whiteskunk with 10 and Diaz with eight. Alamosa was led by senior Chad Jackson, who scored a game-high 23 points.
Less than 24 hours after falling to Alamosa, M-CHS returned to its home court to play Centauri and walked away with a 64-57 victory. The win improved the Panthers’ record to 10-2 overall and 2-2 in the Intermountain League.
Next up for M-CHS will be a home matchup with Monte Vista on Jan. 25, followed by a road matchup against Pagosa Springs on Jan. 26.
“Our potential this year is ridiculous,” Jorgensen said. “We have two big men, and we have amazing point guards who do their jobs right. If we learn to be physical, we can make it to state.”