Plagued by turnovers, defensive breakdowns and a costly technical foul late, the Montezuma-Cortez High School boys basketball team was far from flawless.
Even so, the Panthers gutted their way to a 50-47 over Bayfield on Jan. 7, thus improving their record to 3-5 on the year.
After struggling on offense early, the Panthers caught fire midway through the first quarter, pulling ahead 12-7 lead after consecutive three pointers by senior Bracken Whiteskunk.
“I felt right, I was open, they gave it to me and I just hit it,” said Whiteskunk of his early threes, which contributed to his game high 23 points.
Using the second quarter to add to an already impressive shooting night, Whiteskunk hit three more trifectas before a buzzer-beating layup by junior Taylor Wilson extended the Panthers lead to 25-16 entering the half.
Beginning the third quarter, the Panthers pulled ahead 29-20 following a layup by junior Jonathan Walck, who scored nine points in the game.
Several turnovers later however, the Panthers found themselves trailing 35-34 before junior Randy Haley steadied the ship with four of his 10 total points and put the Panthers ahead 38-35 entering the fourth.
“We got a little sloppy,” said Panthers’ junior Konnar McGee. “I think we thought we had the game.”
As the fourth quarter would demonstrate however, the game was anything but secure and after the Panthers built a 47-37 lead, Bayfield took advantage of several M-CHS turnovers to narrow the gap to 50-45 with 1:37 left.
Following a free throw by Bayfield’s Trey Lange and a technical foul on Panthers after head coach Dusty DeBoer called a timeout that he did not have, Bayfield pulled to within 50-47 with 13 seconds left.
A desperation three pointer by Bayfield’s Preston Hardy fell short however and after Wilson corralled the rebound, the Panthers escaped with the win.
Even with the victory however, DeBoer was not altogether pleased with his team’s effort down the stretch.
“We started turning the ball over,” said DeBoer. “That’s our biggest obstacle every single time we play. We have the athletes to be a really good team, but we need to put the brains together with the brawn.”
Hoping to limit their turnovers moving forward, the Panthers will next hit the court on Jan. 17 for their Southwest League opener against Fruita Monument.