by David Tesitor
WALSENBURG, HOEHNE — The John Mall Panthers men’s basketball team stalled as the Panthers lost their weekend games to the Rye Thunderbolts, 67-57, and the Hoehne Farmers, 50-48.
These losses mathematically eliminated them from any hopes of a league title. The Panthers are tied with the Farmers for fifth place with a record of 4-6. They hold the tiebreaker when it comes to the district tournament with an overall record of 8-7. There are four games remaining for the Cats with action against Crowley County tomorrow and then Las Animas on Saturday. Both games are at home.
Also, it is important to consider that the teams are so closely matched against one another that the district tournament could produce upsets and surprises.
On Friday, the Panthers played a competitive first quarter against the Thunderbolts, opening up a 16-10 lead, and at times they held onto a double digit lead. The Panthers found themselves in foul trouble early which forced their starters to the bench. A disastrous second and third quarter put the game out of reach, in spite of the Cats’ fourth quarter rally.
The second half of the Hoehne game was as exciting as any, with both teams taking the lead. By the end of three, the score was deadlocked at 35 apiece. The Panthers again struggled to maintain their lead but relinquished an eight-point lead in the third quarter which allowed the Farmers to get back into the game.
Midway in the fourth, the Panthers trailed by six until MichaelRyan Griego passed to Jacob Wiggins who was driving the post for an easy two, narrowing the gap to four. On the next possession, Clayton Berger’s two closed the gap to a bucket.
There were many parts of the game the Panthers executed well. Aggressive defense, forcing several turnovers and dominance under the boards were three, but in the end, the Panthers could not convert opportunity into points when they needed them the most.
In the closing seconds, Wiggins popped for three from the top of the key to make it a one-point game. It was his third three-pointer of the night. John Mall then fouled placing Derrick Cordova at the line where he went one of one.
With time running out, the Panthers got the rebound and called a time out for one last shot. Their three-point shot rimmed out at the buzzer, giving the Farmers a two-point victory.