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Another landmark falls – Panthers roll past Alamosa

Montezuma-Cortez junior Taylor Whited looks to attack with the basketball against a Centauri defender Saturday, Feb. 3 at M-CHS. Ben Bradley/Special to The Journal
M-CHS continues to set new standard while kicking off big week

Sometimes after the jubilation of a big win, it’s natural for a team to have a letdown in their next outing.

The Panthers wouldn’t begin to indulge that as a possibility – instead they turned their second chance against Alamosa into a demolition.

Flying high after their historic, first-ever win over Centauri on Saturday, Montezuma-Cortez High School blew open a close first quarter against Alamosa with a clinic in the middle stanzas, including a decisive 22-10 third-quarter run on their way to a 66-43 victory.

So long, 21-game winless streak against the Mean Moose. Hello, second place in the IML standings.

In their first win over Alamosa since 2015, M-CHS turned up the pressure defensively in the second quarter after playing to a 10-all tie through the opening period. The resulting turnovers from an aggressive defense yielded six of sophomore Sariah Jackson’s 10 points, one of four Panthers to produce double-digit scoring.

Up 28-22 at the break, M-CHS (8-6, 4-3 4A/3A IML) continued to tighten the screws, scoring in transition and earning trips to the free throw line – shooting six-of-eight from the stripe in the third quarter alone. After a quiet day against Centauri, senior Savannah Haselroth blitzed the Mean Moose (10-8, 4-4 4A/3A IML) with nine points in the third quarter – 13 for the game – while freshman Milah Begay scored nine of her 11 points from beyond the arc.

Junior Taylor Whited amassed another 20-point game, while senior Markylla Jones tacked on nine points in the win.

Seniors Trenity Tillahash, Kayce Tom, and junior Kalea Ogo contributed to the defensive clinic, limiting a capable three-point shooting team to only two triples in the game.

Panthers freshman Milah Begay surveys the defense in a game against San Juan at Montezuma-Cortez in December. Begay scored nine of her 11 points from beyond the 3-point arc.

For head coach Brad Wright, the defensive adjustments spurred a huge shift in the game. “Pressure was key, we knew what they were bringing at us based off of what we saw from the first game, and the girls followed the game plan.”

“We understood that we were a team – if we get down, we’ll get in the huddle and say ‘We have this’,” Ogo said. “We’ve done so much in the past year that hasn’t been done in forever – to be a part of that is amazing.”

The Mean Moose, who have no seniors on the roster, were led in scoring by sophomore Jaelin Garcia with 14 points.

“We handled the basketball really well and limited the turnovers,” said Wright. “We haven’t reached our ceiling yet, we’re wanting to see how high we can go.”

M-CHS jumped up into the top 15 in the 3A’s CHSAA Seeding and Selection Index – which impacts postseason assignments – climbing six spots over the past three days courtesy of their recent run.

For Ogo and the Panthers, there hasn’t been a sacrifice of identity or lack of enjoyment in this unprecedented year.

“Ever since the summer, we knew that this would be our year – we just knew that we had to go and ‘be us’,” added the junior wing.

The majority of the fans in attendance donned purple, as the contest served as a fundraiser for the Pawlicki family after the tragic loss of Dolores’ Trenton Pawlicki in a car crash on Jan. 25. The Mean Moose coaching staff showed solidarity along with the Panthers, while the arena shared a moment of silence before the game.

With back-to-back victories over IML foes against whom the Panthers had been 1-43 over the past decade, M-CHS carries an upswell of confidence into an exciting week ahead. M-CHS travels to Dove Creek on Wednesday, Feb. 7 for a matchup against the red-hot Bulldogs, before their final two home games of the season on Friday and Saturday, when Ignacio and Pagosa Springs visit The Jungle for a pair of pivotal IML contests. Both of their encounters with Dove Creek on Wednesday (6:30 p.m.) and Ignacio on Friday (5:30 p.m.) will be available on local radio station 98.7 FM KTRZ and krtzradio.com.