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Montezuma-Cortez girls settle for district runner-up in best-ever IML season

Panthers’ fourth quarter rally falls short against Centauri in title game

BAYFIELD – No matter how much preparation a team can do, the experience of playing in high stakes games is something that can’t be drawn up in practice.

The Montezuma-Cortez girls basketball team continues to gain a wealth of knowledge to stow away with each passing landmark achievement.

While Montezuma-Cortez fell short 42-33 in the 4A/3A Intermountain League tournament finals against Centauri, the Panthers once again showed that they belonged on the stage, rallying from 20 points down in the second half to climb within single digits before the clock finally ran out.

Having already shown their moxie in a victory over the Falcons during the regular season that snapped a 22-game losing skid against their IML foes, the Panthers aimed to prove they could duplicate the feat with the hope of potentially hosting a regional site game in the upcoming 3A state tournament.

Instead, the Panthers offense never found a rhythm in the first three quarters. By the time it did, the mountain that they needed to climb proved insurmountable.

Junior Kalea Ogo collected a pass from senior Kayce Tom in the first quarter, scoring a bucket and drawing a foul to stake out an early 5-4 advantage. But the Falcons responded with an 18-7 run to end the first half to take control of the game.

Centauri’s lead grew to 33-13 after three quarters, thanks to a strong day in the post for Falcon senior Lacey Johnson.

Montezuma-Cortez then responded with a burst of scoring from senior Savannah Haselroth, who scored a game-high 14 points. Johnson and classmate Braelyn Tucker each accounted for 10 points to help guide the Falcons to another league title.

The Panthers (11-10, 6-4 in league play) had their best Intermountain League campaign in program history. They were third in the regular season and the IML tournament runner-up.

Montezuma-Cortez will also accomplish another major feat for the first time since the 2009-10 campaign: qualify for the state tournament.

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