With its regular season winding down, the Montezuma-Cortez High School boys basketball team is right where it wants to be. Last weekend, the hot Panthers downed two of the Intermountain League’s best teams, Bayfield and Alamosa.
Now, the Panthers enter the final weekend of the regular season with a chance to capture at least a share of the IML championship for the first time. Standing between M-CHS and glory will be Centauri High School and Monte Vista High School.
With two victories, the Panthers will likely be positioned for a deep postseason run. One of two losses could drastically affect M-CHS’ postseason seeding and ability to make a deep postseason run. Below are some things that fans should watch for as M-CHS looks to close out its regular season in style.
Centauri puts winning streak on the lineOf all the teams in Colorado’s 3A classification, few have been as tough recently as the Centauri Falcons, who have won five consecutive games against tough IML competition.
Among Centauri’s recent victories are two wins over Bayfield High School, one win over Alamosa High School and one win over Alamosa High School. All three teams have beaten M-CHS once this season.
When the Panthers travel to take on Falcons on Feb. 8 however, Cortez fans can draw confidence from the fact that they have owned Centauri the past two seasons. Last year, M-CHS defeated the Falcons three times and M-CHS defeated Centauri 64-47 earlier this year.
Because Centauri does not post season statistics online, scouting the team can be difficult. Historically however, the Falcons have featured a balanced offensive attack anchored by players capable of scoring from multiple areas of the floor.
Look for M-CHS junior Teagan Whiteskunk to have a big game while matching or exceeding the 15 points that he scored against them earlier this season. Fans should also keep an eye on Panthers forward Cordell Baer, who scored 20 points against Bayfield one week ago.
While Centauri’s 13-3 overall record and 5-2 record in the IML should give M-CHS fans some concern, expect the Panthers to continue their recent hot streak and walk away with a convincing victory over what will be an overmatched Falcons team.
Monte Vista creates matchup problemsWhile Monte Vista’s 5-10 overall record and 1-6 record in the IML are unimpressive, the Pirates have shown themselves capable of keeping games close against several tough teams.
Among the factors that makes Monte Vista tough to deal with is a backcourt led by lanky senior guard David Mascarenas, whose explosive first step and passing ability allows him to penetrate into the paint and set up teammates for easy buckets.
During the Panthers’ 72-63 victory over the Pirates earlier this season, M-CHS struggled against a pressure defense and trailed 37-34 at halftime.
In the event that Whiteskunk is able to come close to matching his season averages of 19.6 points per game and 5.1 rebounds per game and junior Titus Jackson is able to attack the rim and score in double digits, M-CHS should squeak past Monte Vista.
The Feb. 9 contest in Monte Vista has the feel of a trap game, however, and in the event that M-CHS overlooks the last-place team in the IML or some of the Panthers’ star players struggle, an upset could be in store.
Both M-CHS games this weekend are scheduled to begin at 7 p.m.