FOWLER, WALSENBURG- The red hot John Mall Panthers continued their winning ways with impressive wins over the weekend over Fowler and Las Animas. On Friday, the Cats took their potent offense to Fowler and found themselves in foul trouble early. Jacob Wiggins did not play while Charlie Whitehead and Zac Harriman drew their third personal fouls early in the second. As a result, Coach Harriman called upon his bench to get the job done. MichaelRyan Griego, Justin Eccher, Michael Maldonado and Brandon Atencio did a great job of maintaining the early Panther lead which helped the Cats cruise to a 25-15 half time lead.
The Grizzlies had an offensive surge as the third began, cutting the Panther lead to 5. This was as close as Fowler was able to get as Whitehead and Harriman came off the bench to lead the offense and control the game. Whitehead and Dylan Tenorio dominated the boards in the final eight minutes, helping the Panthers hold off the Grizzlies 44-37.
On Saturday, Jonn Mall handily defeated the Las Animas Trojans, 55-39, in a physical game which saw both teams battling for control. In the end, it was the Panthers who prevailed and maintained their cool. The Panthers quickly opened the scoring and pulled away 9-4 with 1:14 remaining in the first. A quick Trojan bucket and turnover made the game close as the quarter ended, 11-8.
It was the Panther’s pressure defense and tight playing which made the difference in the game as the Trojans turned the ball over enabling the Cats to advance their lead. One such turnover saw Steven Rodriguez on a break away lay-up. He was flagrantly fouled by Trojan Jeff Gonzales, sending him to the hardwood and drawing the technical foul. Rodriguez was forced to leave the game. Gonzales ultimately was called for his aggressive play and fouled out of the game. By the time the half ended, the Cats held onto a 26-20 lead.
The last half was all John Mall. Whitehead and Tenorio again dominated the boards and the Panther defense shut down the Trojans, holding their key outside shooters in check.
The Panthers have already clinched the district and will face league opponents Crowley County tonight and Rocky Ford on Friday. Both are home games. The games will have no bearing on the district, but will give the Panthers experience as they prepare themselves for the tournament in two weeks.