For the first time since 2009, the Panthers made an appearance in the state tournament. Making the field as the No. 31 seed, MCHS traveled to Manitou Springs on Friday to take on the No. 2 Mustangs in the opening round of the Class 3A State Tournament.
After a slow start that included some foul trouble, the Panthers found themselves trailing 30-11 at the break.
“The first quarter played out really well, we just missed a bunch of easy layups,” said head coach Mike Hall. “The second quarter, Jasen Engel got in foul trouble guarding one of their top scorers, and once Jasen went out, we had a hard time stopping him, and he scored a bunch of points real quick on us.”
The Panthers played much better in the second half, though. And although they outscored the Mustangs 28-27, they were unable to dig themselves out from the early hole and fell by a final of 57-39.
“We just moved the ball really well and we played really good defense,” Hall said of his team’s improved second-half play. “But they were tough. Their point guard was very good and very quick, and their leading scorer was tough.”
M-CHS finished the year with a 7-14 record, its most wins since the 2013-14 season. And by joining the state tournament field for the first time since 2009, Hall considered the season a big step forward.
“I feel it was a very successful season and a big step forward and it gives the young kids something to shoot for,” he said. “And now the kids, who are pretty young as a whole, know what it takes to get to that level. I’m excited for what’s coming.”
The Panthers will lose five seniors from this year’s squad to graduation. But with a solid group of returners and a solid group of underclassman, Hall is optimistic about the future.
“I’m really excited about this group of kids that will be seniors,” he said. “And I’m excited for the young kids; I’ve got a couple of freshman that will be really tough. And just the experience that those kids have together is something to be excited about.”