After months of honing in on fundamentals such as ball movement and defensive positioning, the Montezuma-Cortez High School girls basketball team played what was perhaps its best game of the season against Bayfield High School in the first round of the Intermountain League District Tournament on Wednesday.
Throughout all four quarters of the lopsided contest, the Lady Panthers moved the ball as well as they have all season while consistently generating quality looks at the basket. The result was a 45-25 drubbing of a Wolverines team that defeated M-CHS 53-47 earlier this season.
“We’re moving the ball better, that’s the biggest difference,” M-CHS head coach Tim Robinson said. “We’re looking to our (post players) inside, and once we get it inside, things are opening up on the outside.”
Among the many beneficiaries of the Lady Panthers’ deft ball movement was sophomore forward Paige Yarbrough, who scored 15 points thanks to numerous successful postups and a handful of midrange jumpers.
Also benefiting from M-CHS’ approach on the offensive end was junior Presley Frost, who scored 8 points in the game, including six points during an 11-0 lead to close the second quarter that gave the Lady Panthers a 26-13 halftime lead.
“(Ball movement) is something that we’ve worked on in practice the last two weeks,” Frost said. “We worked on passing to get the open shots. When you pass the ball, you get an open shot on the outside or you get a good look on the inside with Paige, and she usually knocks her shots down.”
As the M-CHS offense purred along throughout the second half, the team’s defense locked down as Bayfield struggled to get open looks at the basket and scored just four points during the third quarter, which ended with M-CHS leading 37-17.
The Lady Panthers continued to control the boards during the final eight minutes as Yarbrough, Frost, and senior Kailey Case refused to allow Bayfield the type of second-chance opportunities that could have spurred a comeback.
“We’ve been practicing so much on boxing out and rebounding,” Yarbrough said. “That’s been our No. 1 priority, and we finally started to execute.”
In addition to Yarbrough and Frost’s contributions on the offense end, freshman Brianna Comisky knocked down two 3-point field goals for a total of six points, and junior Hayden Leggett and junior Mackenzie Begay each drilled one 3-point field goal.
“I told our team at the beginning of the year, we have the deepest team in the league, and we utilize it,” Robinson said. “It really helps to keep people fresh, and we don’t lose much when we take people out.”
M-CHS’ win over Bayfield marked the first Intermountain League District Tournament win in school history. The Lady Panthers were previously 0-3 in such games since joining the IML prior to the 2015-16 season.
Next up for M-CHS will be a semifinals matchup against top-seeded Pagosa Springs High School, which has been rescheduled to take place at noon Saturday in Cortez.