Opening its season with three games at the Warrior Challenge in Grand Junction, the Montezuma-Cortez High School basketball team put forth a solid showing and walked away with two wins.
Kicking off the tournament against Fruita Monument on Nov. 30, the Panthers fell behind 16-6 at the end of the third quarter and trailed 30-17 at halftime before eventually losing by 30 points.
“Fruita is very tough,” M-CHS head coach Mike Hall said. “We hung with them for a while. The thing that got us was their depth (off of the bench). We just don’t have that kind depth yet.”
Playing its second game of the tournament against Carbon High School (Price, Utah) on Dec. 1, M-CHS utilized tough defense and a game-high 21 points from sophomore Teagan Whiteskunk to propel itself to a 58-47 victory.
Also playing a key role for the Panthers was junior big-man Cordell Baer, who, according to Hall, dominated the paint and grabbed numerous offensive and defensive rebounds.
“The boys came out and played really well against Carbon,” Hall said. “They forced a lot of turnovers and forced a lot of mistakes. Cordell Baer dominated the paint. He was a beast down low.”
Wrapping up the tournament with a game against Palisade on Dec. 2, M-CHS carried a 28-24 lead into halftime before eventually pulling away for a 55-49 victory. Whiteskunk scored 23 points, and senior Jasen Engel chipped in 20 points for the Panthers.
“We were up the whole game and eventually we build a 12 point lead with two minutes to go and it kinda stayed there,” said Hall. “Jasen’s experience and Teagan’s all-around basketball skills got us through that game.”
Now 2-1 on the season, M-CHS will travel to play Monticello on Dec. 5 before returning home for the Cortez Tournament, which will take place Dec. 15-16.
“I’d like to be 3-1 going into our home tournament and start Christmas break with a winning record,” said Hall. “(Having a winning record) heading into Christmas hasn’t happened for this team in a while.”