Panthers hang tough to beat Delta in boys basketball

Whiteskunk scores 19 in second half

Panthers senior shooting guard Briston Whiteskunk lines up a jump shot during his team’s 63-58 victory over Delta. Enlargephoto

Ian MacLaren/Cortez Journal

Panthers senior shooting guard Briston Whiteskunk lines up a jump shot during his team’s 63-58 victory over Delta.

Dealing with adversity has not been a strong point of the Montezuma-Cortez High School boys basketball team in recent years, but this is a new era.

Competing at home against Delta on Dec. 10 in what turned out to be their first tight game of the season, the Panthers hung tough when it mattered to record a 63-58 victory.

Playing without leading scorer Brackin Whiteskunk for the entire first half, the Panthers managed to keep things close and entered the locker room trailing 25-24.

Carrying the Panthers throughout the first and second quarter was junior Taylor Wilson, who, in addition to his defensive contributions, notched eight first-half points on his way to a 16 point game.

“It was a real back-and-forth first half,” said Panthers’ head coach Dusty DeBoer. “I was proud of our team and without Whiteskunk, we kept things close.”

Opening the second half with their super star, the Panthers quickly caught fire in the third quarter as Whiteskunk scored nine points of his game high 19 points. Even with the seniors stellar quarter however, the Panthers trailed 36-35 entering the fourth.

With the game hanging in the balance throughout the fourth quarter, junior Randy Haley came up huge, pulling several offensive rebounds and hitting four clutch free throws.

“We shot well as a team on free throws,” said Haley. Down the stretch, that helped us out.”

Even with Haley’s strong play however, the Panthers found themselves in a dogfight in the final minute.

As he had all game however, Wilson came up huge, hitting a key layup and four clutch free throws to secure the Panthers victory.

“He was gigantic,” said DeBoer of Wilson. “He played great defense. Down the stretch, he made a lot of good decisions and knocked down his free throws.”

Also key in the Panthers’ victory was the ability of big-man Briston Walker to control skilled Delta big-man Cade Gafford, who scored only seven points on the night.

“I tried to play from behind,” said Walker. “He’s not very strong. If you don’t let him turn and he has to dish it back out, it goes pretty well.”

With their season record now at 2-1, the Panthers will continue preparing for the Steamboat Springs Shootout, scheduled Dec. 13-14.

“We need to work on crashing the boards and boxing out,” said Walker. “We need to be mentally tough.”