The Montezuma-Cortez Panthers dropped both games of their Rumble in the Jungle tournament last weekend to head into the holiday break with a 2-4 record.
On Friday, the Panthers were paired up against the Basalt Longhorns and standout big man Michael Glen.
Glen entered the contest just 31 points shy of 1,000 for his career, and he tallied 18 in the first half to give the Longhorns a 35-21 advantage heading into halftime.
“We tried everything,” said M-CHS head coach Mike Hall. “We actually had to put Jasen Engel on him just to front him the rest of the time and hopefully the help-side would help out. That seemed to work the best. That kid is good though. You can’t take it away from him, we had to stop the other kids.”
Daniel Fernandez knocked down two triples in the first quarter and Engel hit one himself. But it may have been fool’s gold for the Panthers. After some early success outside, combined with the size of the Basalt squad on the interior, they seemed content to settle for deep jumpers.
“They were very lengthy and it was hard to get any kind of pass,” said Hall. “We got blocked a few times and I think that got in the kids’ heads, they got timid of attacking the basket. They just got afraid to go after him, and you can’t rely on winning a game by shooting 3-pointers the whole game.”
After entering the fourth down 53-29, M-CHS senior Quanah Casey started cooking and knocked down four 3-pointers in the final frame. But the game was out of hand at that point and Basalt rolled to a 68-46 win.
Casey led the Panthers with 18 points in the contest and Engel finished with 14. Glen scored 27 for Basalt.
The Panthers looked to bounce back on Saturday against Grand County and they got out to a good start.
Obed Simental knocked down two 3-pointers and Engel scored six in the opening frame to push M-CHS out to a 17-16 lead. And then in the second quarter, the Panthers leaned on senior Micah Hightower and junior Ben Chupp, who hopped off the bench and contributed immediately.
Hightower knocked down two free throws and later drove by a defender for a nifty layup. Chupp rushed backed on defense and stopped what would have been a fastbreak score for Basalt and later hit a runner in transition.
Engel slipped inside for two at the end of the quarter to send M-CHS to the half up 33-28, but it was the Panthers bench that kept them afloat in the second.
“That was nice to have,” said Hall. “We needed some bench play. Our starting five was struggling and got in a little bit of foul trouble and those two kids came in and they picked it up.”
The second half was a slog.
With both teams racking up fouls, the two took turns shooting free throws. And with the game stopping and starting with a stream of whistles, the Panthers were unable to get in a flow.
“That’s what we were trying to figure out on the bench, was how can we pick this pace up?” Hall explained. “Because almost every time down the floor one of us was shooting free throws. We lost the free-throw shooting contest and couldn’t get any kind of momentum to build.”
They got to the line, but they hit just 8 of 16 free throws in the entire second half.
Meanwhile, Grand County hit four triples in the third quarter to pull ahead 49-44 to start the fourth. And then in the final frame, the Red Devils went 13 of 18 from the charity stripe to close things out and go on to win 71-57.
Chris Hren led Grand County with 22 points in the victory. Engel tallied 13 for the Panthers, Fernandez scored 10 and Simental finished with eight.
M-CHS now has a break over the holiday season before kicking off the new year with a heavily-anticipated rivalry match at Durango on Friday, Jan .6.