To appreciate the improvements being made by the Montezuma-Cortez High School girls basketball team, it is necessary to look beyond the final score.
Yes, the margins of defeat are large. Yes, the record is not pretty, yet game after game, the Panthers keep getting better.
Playing one of their finest games of the season at home against Farmington on Dec. 9, the Panthers (0-3) played their best offensive game of the season, but were defeated 72-36.
After falling behind 10-0 to start the contest and 21-7 after the first quarter, the Panthers pulled things together, going toe-to-toe with Farmington throughout the second quarter to enter halftime trailing 36-20.
Key to the Panthers’ second quarter resurgence was the play of sophomore Gabby Wolf, who, coming off the bench, energized her team’s defense with several steals and pass deflections.
“We just need to intercept those lanes,” said Wolf. “That’s how we can get our fast break going.”
Starting the second half with a bang, Panthers’ junior Katrina Lee drilled a three from the top of the key to pull her team to within 13, yet Farmington responded, kicking their offense into gear to take a 55-29 lead into the fourth quarter.
Not to be lost in the Panthers tough third quarter was the play of sophomore Chantelle Manuel, who, looking much improved, pulled several offensive rebounds to give her team second-chance opportunities.
“She is doing better,” said Panthers’ head coach John McHenry of Manuel. “I’m trying to get her to be more physical to where she will put herself into better position so she doesn’t have to work so hard.”
Although the Panthers were unable to close the gap in the fourth quarter, eventually falling 72-36, McHenry could not help but be pleased by his team’s effort.
Leading the way offensively for the Panthers with eight points was sophomore Simone Lopez.
“Even though the scoreboard says one thing, we’re biting off small goals,” said McHenry. “The little intrinsic things are what we take into the locker room. We measure ourselves on those things rather than what it says on the scoreboard.”
With their season record now at 0-6, the Panthers will take a brief respite before travelling to Farmington to take on Piedra Vista on Dec. 12.