Every player on the Montezuma-Cortez roster scored during the team’s 77-39 blowout win over Aztec on Tuesday.
Sophomore Jasen Engel opened the game with a 3-pointer, and then gave M-CHS an early 5-0 lead with a layup off an Aztec turnover.
The Panthers’ full-court pressure sped up the game and forced Aztec turnovers, leading to easy baskets. However, at times, the Panthers were hurried and coughed the ball up themselves, ending the first quarter with a 17-14 lead.
The abundance of fouls in the up-and-down game put both teams in the bonus just two minutes into the second quarter, and senior Luis Perry capitalized by getting to the line.
Perry was 5-for-6 from the stripe in the second quarter and finished with 12 first-half points and 15 for the game.
Head coach Mike Hall said that some of the nerves stemmed from how amped up the team was for its first game in the new gym, but midway through the second quarter, the Panthers seemed to find a rhythm.
Sophomore Daniel Fernandez and junior Quanah Casey came off the bench in the second quarter to steady the team and help extend the Panthers’ lead.
While Fernandez handled the point guard duties, Casey provided the shooting.
“Daniel Fernandez’ basketball intelligence,” Hall said, pausing, “He just has it. He’s young too, he’s a sophomore, so we’re just working on him and trying to get him up to that level of the speed of a varsity game, which he handled very well tonight.”
“Quanah Casey can flat out shoot the ball,” Hall continued. “So when he gets open it’s going to go in. That’s a spark you need off the bench – somebody that can come in cold and shoot a three and get the crowd going and get the kids fired back up – and everybody feeds off it.”
Fernandez scored six points in the second quarter and finished with nine, while Casey knocked down two triples and two free throws in the quarter and scored 10 points on the evening.
M-CHS went into halftime with a 45-24 lead before blowing things open in the third quarter.
The Panthers started the second half with a 1-2-2 trap that led to Aztec turnovers and run outs for M-CHS baskets. And in the half court, the Panthers limited their turnovers and found easy looks.
“I just wanted to get the kids to calm down,” Hall said when asked what he told them at halftime. “They were still just so fired up. They were so focused on getting the ball inside that they were forgetting that they could skip the ball. And once they figured that out, it was open.”
A settled offense and skip passes produced two open 3-pointers for Jasen Engel. Engel connected for three treys in the contest and finished with a team-high 16 points.
With a steady offense and pressure defense, the Panthers outscored the Tigers 20-2 in the third quarter to enter the fourth frame leading 65-26.
M-CHS’ second unit held things down and closed out the game for a 77-39 victory in the team’s season-opener.
“Defensively they impressed me tonight,” Hall said following the game. “They were all over the floor. Yeah, we got some fouls, but defensively I was very impressed with what they did.”
“Offensively, we’ve just got to work on not turning it over,” he continued. “And that comes with experience and comes with some playing time, and we’ll figure that out.”