Playing against Centauri in front of a raucous student section on Feb. 2, the Panthers clawed their way to a 64-57 victory. Sophomore Teagan Whiteskunk paced M-CHS with 15 points, senior Austin Foxworth scored 12, and senior Jasen Engel added 10.
The game started off close as players from M-CHS and Centauri waged a physical battle that included several bone-crushing screens and hard fouls. Midway through the quarter, Whiteskunk was knocked to the floor after a drive to the basket and later in the half, Panthers senior Mario Espinoza exchanged words with Centauri’s Martin Garcia after Garcia appeared to set a moving screen.
M-CHS players maintained their composure despite the chippy nature of the contest, however, and after trailing 10-8 at the end of the first quarter, the team received a boost from junior Jens Jorgenson, who scored eight second-quarter points to help M-CHS pull ahead 25-24 by halftime.
“I just try to come in and play hard,” Jorgensen said. “When I get done with (the junior varsity game), I’m a little tired, but I just have to fight through and help my team.”
Looking to maintain their momentum in the second half, M-CHS put the ball in the hands of Engel and the multi-talented senior responded by dishing out multiple assists to teammates.
Among Engel’s most impressive passes was a no-look pass to Cordell Baer for a layup to put the Panthers ahead 29-28. Later in the quarter, Engel caught an errant inbounds pass with his left hand and fired the ball to Foxworth in the right corner for a 3-pointer to put M-CHS ahead 38-29.
“(Centauri) put that lengthy kid on me, and anytime I would drive, they would collapse,” Engel said. “I told everyone to slide to the open spot, and if they collapse, I’ll find you. I just trusted my team to make the shots.”
Ahead 49-38 to begin the fourth quarter, M-CHS began firing on all cylinders as Centauri’s defense slowly wilted. A fast-break layup by Espinoza midway through the quarter stretched the Panthers’ lead to 53-42 and consecutive layups by Foxworth furthered the gap to 57-42 with 4 minutes left.
With M-CHS leading 64-52 late in the fourth quarter, Panthers fans began to celebrate while imploring Centauri to “warm up the bus.” Players high-fived on the bench as head coach Michael Hall congratulated his players on their effort.
Whiteskunk scored 15 points to pace M-CHS, Foxworth added 12, Engel scored 10 and Jorgensen chipped in 8.
Less than 24 hours after defeating Centauri, M-CHS returned to the court against Monte Vista and overcame a sluggish start in route to a 73-60 victory.
The Panthers led 11-9 at the end of the first quarter and found themselves tied, 27-27, at halftime. An impressive third quarter allowed the Panthers to build a 51-41 lead, however, and the team coasted to victory.
Now 10-7 on the season, M-CHS will prepare for a critical road matchup against Pagosa Springs, which will take place on Feb. 9 at 7 p.m.