IGNACIO – The Montezuma-Cortez High school boys basketball team did what it is known for: pushing the pace.
The Panthers (7-0) took advantage of several second-chance opportunities and had plenty of offensive rebounds in a 70-54 win over host Ignacio on Friday night in the second game of the four-game Southwest Classic.
In a game in which the Bobcats (2-5) never led, the Panthers controlled the glass and offensive chances from the opening tipoff.
“It was nice to see because we’re a bit out of sync right now with Christmas break and everything, and to see that effort tonight was great,” said Cortez head coach Mike Hall. “At halftime, we made the adjustments we needed to, and it helped us stay composed when they got it within six points early in the third. But, from there, it was all about our upperclassmen and big men stepping up for us.
“From there, it was all about pushing the tempo, and we’re much better at pushing the fast-break in that kind of a situation.”
The Panthers were led by forwards Jens Jorgensen and Cordell Baer, both of whom were able to get baskets or go to the free-throw line because of their ability to crash the glass. Jorgensen finished with four points, while Baer was the Panthers’ second-leading scorer with 16 points.
Cortez was able to pull away thanks to the play of junior guard Teagan Whiteskunk, who had a quiet six points in the first half but exploded in the second with 14 of his game-high 20 points, which included two 3-pointers late in the third quarter that helped the Panthers put the Bobcats in a deficit they were unable to rebound from.
Ignacio head coach Chris Valdez gave Cortez credit for picking up the tempo and said it was the difference when the final buzzer sounded.
“For us, yeah, the size and the tempo got to us a bit, but it doesn’t mean that you can fail to box out,” Valdez said. “There were times where we would box out and then a guard would slide in and grab a rebound because one of our guards wouldn’t come in for a rebound or box out.”
The Bobcats were outscored 22-9 in the third quarter.
“We failed to do a lot of the little things right in that quarter and it cost us,” Valdez said. “We didn’t get back on defense quick enough, the pick-and-roll wasn’t good enough execution, we didn’t defend the pick-and-roll properly. When you look out there and see how young this team is, they are making young mistakes, but, as the season progresses, we will minimize the damage that comes with not doing the little things well, and we’ll improve.”
Rounding out the scoring for Cortez was Titus Jackson, who finished with 10 points, while Michael Diaz chipped in six points in the win.
It will be a contrast of style for the undefeated Panthers, as the run-and-gun offense will clash against a slow, methodical offense in rival Durango when the Southwest Classic continues at 3 p.m. Saturday.
“I told them it’ll be an emotional game tomorrow,” Hall said. “The Cortez-Durango rivalry has always been there, and for those three seniors, this will be the last time they’ll play DHS in this type of an environment. It will be a contrast of styles, but I am looking forward to seeing Al (Hurworth) go against Cordell, and both of them are aggressive, strong and athletic leaders, so it’s going to be a battle on the boards and it’ll be fun to watch.”
The Bobcats had a quiet third quarter but ended the game strong as they scored 24 points in the final frame, as Bryce Finn had 11 of his 16 points in the last quarter, while Brady McCaw added nine points, all of which came from beyond the 3-point line. McCaw finished with a team-high 19 points. Sophomore Triston Thompson added seven points.
Ignacio will host a similar style team in Bayfield at 5 p.m. Saturday for the Pine River Rivalry.
“Bayfield is a great team, and they’re coming off of a state championship for a reason, and Klint (Chandler) has done a great job with them this season,” Valdez said. “I know what he knows. For us and them, it’ll be an up-and-down kind of game offensively, for sure. While I think they’ve got more talent than we do, we’re going to go out there, be more patient, try and get some shots off and we’re going to play hard; that’s what we do.”