Montezuma-Cortez girls basketball head coach John McHenry is hoping that his young team learns something from each game.
Even the losses.
After falling to Durango 59-31 last Thursday, the Lady Panthers gained valuable experience against Bloomfield’s pressure defense in a 59-11 loss on Saturday.
Then on Monday, in M-CHS’ final contest until January, the Lady Panthers got to work on their end-of-game situational play in a tight contest against Grand County.
M-CHS had lost to Grand County by nine in its season opener. And Monday’s game was another close one, with Grand County leading 21-18 at half.
Fueled by the play of sophomore Veda Gritts, the visiting Red Devils strung together an 8-0 run to jump on top by 11 midway through the third, and they led by nine entering the fourth.
M-CHS struggled to score its four points in the third quarter, so it seemed that Grand County may pull away even more.
But the Lady Panthers made a run.
“We got a lot of foul shots that drew us closer,” explained McHenry. “And then when Payton hit that three it sparked us up.”
Myra Simmons, Cortney Cashner, Dimery Plewe and Leriah Cly knocked down free throws to trim the Red Devils’ lead. And then, with two-and-a-half minutes remaining and trailing by four, M-CHS junior Payton Keith came up with a steal at half court.
Dribbling across the 3-point line on the right side, Keith crossed over to attack the bucket. But when the Grand County defender in front of her got her feet tangled and crumpled to the floor, Keith coolly stepped back and knocked down a 3-pointer to bring M-CHS within one, the closest it’d been since the second quarter.
Grand County’s lead stretched back and forth in the waning minutes, eventually settling at three with around 40 seconds to play. And while the Panthers had a final opportunity with possession and 10 seconds remaining, they were unable to get a shot up, as Grand County came up with a steal to go on to win 40-37.
“Had we made some key layups and some more free throws it would have been a different deal and we could’ve pulled gone away with it,” said McHenry. “But it’s good for my young team to have a game like this.”
“Even though we don’t win these games, the RPI keeps us in it,” he continued. “So we need to continue to get better, even if we lose and it hurts, ultimately we could be in the playoffs because of our RPI.”