Panther girls improve in finale

M-CHS loses big to Grand Junction before keeping things tight versus Montrose

Abri Conklin steals the ball Saturday against Montrose. Enlargephoto

Sam Green/Cortez Journal

Abri Conklin steals the ball Saturday against Montrose.

What started as a tough weekend for the Montezuma-Cortez High School girls basketball team ended on a positive note.

Now, the team can only hope that this season’s improvements provide a launching pad to wins in the coming years.

Opening their final weekend of play at home against Grand Junction on Feb. 14, the Panthers were beaten soundly, falling 52-17 in a game that was never close.

Coming back strong however, the Panthers returned to action on Feb. 15 and played their finest game of the season, losing to Montrose 41-33.

Looking vastly improved, the Panthers kept things tight during the first quarter before an 8-0 spurt stretched Montrose’s lead to 14-4.

Especially impressive for the Panthers during the first quarter was the team’s ability to remain patient on offense against a soft Montrose zone.

“We did some drills that emphasized offensive patience,” said Panthers’ head coach John McHenry. “We got a taste of it and realized that our best defense could be a patient offense.”

Continuing their patient approach throughout the second quarter, the Panthers, buoyed by a three pointer by Abby Chupp and a three point play by Kiselya Plewe, entered halftime trailing 27-12.

Beginning the third quarter, the Panthers cut the Montrose lead to 27-15 after a three point play by Simone Lopez.

Two more third quarter threes by Lopez further reduced the Montrose lead and by the time the fourth quarter began, the Panthers were within striking distance at 36-24.

“My coach noticed that I had the hot hand, so he told me to take the shots when I was set up,” said Lopez, who scored nine of her 13 points in the third quarter.

Continuing their outstanding play in the fourth quarter, the Panthers cut Montrose’s lead to eight points with under a minute to go, much to the delight of the home crowd.

Although the Panthers would eventually lose, the fact that they were able to keep things close was somewhat of a victory for the 1-16 team.

“This was a great stepping stone,” said McHenry after the contest. “We call this our to be continued season.”

And if the Panthers’ late season improvements provide any indication, that continuation could bring the Panthers solid results in the seasons to come.

Kiselya Plewe squeezes between two Montrose defenders. Enlargephoto

Sam Green/Cortez Journal

Kiselya Plewe squeezes between two Montrose defenders.