by David Tesitor
TRINIDAD- The area boys basketball teams were destined to meet at the Trinidad State Junior College 75th annual hoops tournament. In prior years, the Panthers were in the small-school bracket, but this was a new year, and the lower bracket was reserved for JV and 1A squads. Walsenburg opened the tournament against a strong Alamosa team while La Veta was pitted against hometown tourney host, Trinidad Miners.
The Panthers courted a younger starting offense who played an exceptional three quarters against the Mean Moose from over the San Luis Valley. The Panthers kept up with Alamosa for most of the first half. Jacob Wiggins put up a strong defensive performance but got into foul trouble early in the second quarter and was pulled. Mike Maldonado came in and popped three 3-point shots to keep the score close. The Cats trailed 30-23 by the half and by a bucket after three, 47-45. The hot shooting Panthers went cold in the fourth in spite of Wiggins 6-point effort. The Moose outscored the Cats in the fourth, 22-7, behind senior Moose, Randal Loche’s, ten-point fourth quarter. The Cats lost 74-53.
The Redskins’ first tourney match was the last game of the first night against the Trinidad Miners. This game was by far the best game of the day as both teams traded buckets until four minutes remained in the third quarter. Redskins Jon Brunelli and Josiah Christian fouled out within 20 seconds of one another which allowed the Miners to capitalize from the line. In the end, the Skins lost 58-49, setting up the Panther-Redskin match.
The Panthers and Skins started off the game with very little offense. After one, the Cats led 7-6, but an offensive 21-point second-quarter surge gave the Panthers a comfortable 28-16 halftime lead. Both offenses again stalled in the third as the teams traded baskets, but the Panthers still maintained an 11-point third-quarter lead. Walsenburg opened a 41-29 lead midway in the fourth, apparently on their way to the third-place bracket, but La Veta would not give up and went on an 11-2 point run pulling within a bucket at the 1:29 mark. MichaelRyan Griego came in off the bench and scored three straight buckets and helped the Panthers open up a 49-41 lead. When it was over, the Panthers won 52-41 pitting them against the La Junta Tigers for third place. La Veta’s loss pitted them against the Hoehne Farmers in the consolation bracket.
In that match-up for seventh place, the Farmers opened up a 14-13 first-quarter lead. From there, La Veta’s defense shut down the Farmers and blew the game away, holding the Farmers to only 14 points the rest of the game. Christian had 10 second-half points.
The Panthers continued with their momentum as they took it to the La Junta Tigers 48-39 in dominating fashion. The Panthers opened with a 4-0 lead and never looked back. They executed a zone defense and stopped the taller Tigers by dominating the boards and forcing off-balance shots. The Tigers came within 8 points late in the game with a full court press and were forced to foul the Panthers hoping to get back in the game. The hot shooting from the line kept the game out of reach. CharlieWhitehead was named to the All-Tournament team.
Last Tuesday John Mall and La Veta squared off again on the hardwoods. La Veta won 48 to 46 in a come-from-behind last minute victory. The full story will be in next week’s Huerfano World Journal.