Bayfields Cody Rose hit a 3 to open the scoring.
Seven Montezuma-Cortez High School points later, and it was all she wrote for the visiting Wolverines Tuesday night.
The Montezuma-Cortez Panthers lead quickly swelled to double digits and they never trailed again. But the Panthers had to hang on in the second half to win an ugly, physical game, 64-56.
It was a good win. Its nice to come home and win, and get ourselves some confidence going into the (Palisade) tournament this weekend, Panthers coach Eric White said. A lot of mistakes (were made) during the game. Just lazy mistakes, you know what I mean? Not taking care of the ball. Maybe the jitters a little bit on some of that stuff. It was a tough win.
M-CHS (5-1) turned the ball over 18 times, but forced Bayfield (2-4) into a myriad of mistakes with its suffocating half-court defense.
We just really worked on the press hard this week in practice, White said. I thought we executed that well.
The Panthers attacked tall and lengthy Derek Hillyer, the 6-foot-9 Wolverines center, eventually forcing him to foul out, seeing only six minutes of action.
M-CHS started fast behind its senior playmakers Jay Rainer and Christian Chupp. The Panthers built a 20-10 first quarter lead.
Bayfield cut it to six on two separate occasions at 20-14 and 26-20 in the second quarter. But the second stanza was the Alex Lopez and Destry Smith show. With the Panthers leading 33-24, the duo sparked a 10-0 run that gave M-CHS its largest lead of the game at 43-24. Lopez found Smith down low for easy transition baskets. Smith also forced turnovers on the defensive end and gave the ball to Lopez. The lefty tipped in a miss, then hit a 3-pointer the next trip down the floor giving the Panthers a commanding 19-point lead.
The 3A Wolverines added back-to-back buckets to make the score 43-28 at halftime in favor of M-CHS.
Each team played more even in the second half, but the Panthers maintained their double digit lead for most of the third quarter.
Rainer scored 10 points alone in the third. He scored the final five points of the frame, as M-CHS led 56-42 going into the fourth quarter.
Bayfield held tough, cutting the Panthers lead to six points after a steal and 3 by Joey Webb, making it 60-54. M-CHS also helped out with numerous missed free-throw attempts in the fourth. But Rainer stepped up like leaders do and hit a huge 10-footer in the paint to put his team up 62-54 with 1:10 left. Wolverines coach Bill Hesford called timeout, but his team failed to score on its possession. Rainer put the game away on a driving layup on the Panthers next offensive trip to reclaim a double digit lead at 64-54.
Two Wolverines fouls shots resulted in the final margin.
Rainer led all scorers with 25 points, while Smith had a career high with 17. Both big men snared six rebounds. Lopez recorded 10 points and dished out six assists.
Im just trying to do whatever I can to help my team out, Smith said. They got me some good looks and I just did the easy part. Theyre passing and dribbling and everything. I didnt do too much. We got a lot of good chemistry out there. Its starting to flow. You can tell. We just got to keep it up.
Webb had a team high 14 points for Bayfield and Rose netted 13.
M-CHS will take on Rifle today at 4:30 p.m., as part of the Palisade High School tournament. The Panthers will play through Saturday.
NOTES: M-CHS point guard Devin Fox sprained his left ankle at the 3:42 mark of the second quarter and did not return.
Reach Bobby Abplanalp at firstname.lastname@example.org.