Playing in what will likely be the final home game, Montezuma-Cortez High School’s seniors gave a big effort to defeat Monte Vista High School, 73-29, on Feb. 15.
The Lady Panthers’ resounding victory was rooted in a scoring attack that saw multiple players contribute. Senior Hayden Leggett led the way with 11 points, Justina Bayles and senior Dimery Plewe chipped in nine points, and senior Myra Simmons scored eight.
M-CHS’ defense also came through, forcing several turnovers and dominating the defensive glass.
“I think our defense was pretty good because it shut down what they were trying to do,” senior Malia Begay said. “They were trying to push the ball, but we shut it down before they could even think about (scoring).”
M-CHS came out on fire in the opening quarter and built an 11-0 lead on five points from senior Dimery Plewe, three from Leggett, two from senior Presley Frost and one from Simmons.
Mackenzie Begay and Simmons continued to shoot hot in the quarter and knocked down late back-to-back 3-pointers to put M-CHS ahead 21-5 after the opening eight minutes of play.
“Our main thing was to get the ball in to the post, but I think we all saw open shots and believed we could make them,” Malia Begay said. “We let our shots fly, and they went in.”
The second and third quarters also were highlighted by balanced scoring and deft ball movement from the Lady Panthers, who led 39-13 at halftime and 62-23 at the end of three quarters of play.
Among the many solid plays by Panthers players was an off-balance layup by senior Taelynn Comisky midway through the second quarter and a baseline 3-pointer just before halftime by Bayles that brought the crowd to its feet.
“The big key for our offense was feeding (the ball) into our posts,” Simmons said. “Whenever (Monte Vista) tried to double team, our posts tried to kick it out to our shooters, and they hit threes.”
With its starters on the bench most of the fourth quarter, M-CHS fans were given a glimpse of the team’s future as underclassmen Brianna Comisky and Taiah Wilson delivered a handful of impressive plays.
At the end of the night, the Lady Panthers’ big win was all about its seniors, however, who coach Brad Wright said set a solid example for the M-CHS program.
“For me, it’s my second go-round with (the seniors) because I coached them all through middle school,” the M-CHS head coach said. “To have the leadership of the seniors, it’s a luxury that you don’t often have coming into a situation as a first-time head coach.”
Although the Lady Panthers lost to league-leading Centauri High School, 60-40, at home on Feb. 14, their victory over Monte Vista guaranteed them a spot in their district tournament’s pigtail game on Feb. 25.
“If we didn’t get this win (over Monte Vista), I don’t know how it would have shaken down and I don’t know if we would have gotten the pigtail game for the tournament,” Wright said. “The key for us is to just keep moving forward and build on what we do. The wins and losses kind of take care of themselves.”