by David Tesitor
WALSENBURG — The John Mall Panthers routed the Primero Bulldogs last Thursday 69-24 before a full house and went into the winter break with a 5-1 record.
John Mall took control of the tip to start the game but turned it over to the Dogs for Primeros’ first score of the game. It was the Panthers’ full- court defense and pressure which made a statement early in the game, however. The Cats took control of the offensive boards and opened up an 11-2 point lead midway in the first quarter.
Dylan Tenorio opened the Panther offensive surge with the Panthers’ first points of the game. A forced turnover allowed John Mall’s Brandon (Vigil) Bechaver to take the lead for good. Primero played an aggressive game, getting in foul trouble early with six in the first quarter of play.
John Mall’s defense also forced several turnovers early as Jacob Wiggins scored four straight points off two steals. Wiggins hit again from the three-point circle as the quarter was nearing an end and was fouled. By the end of one, the Panthers were leading 20-4.
The Panthers also showed they have depth from the bench as Coach Harriman substituted players throughout the game, giving everyone a chance to play. Harriman’s strategy proved effective as the players were fresh, playing with tenacity and never letting the Dogs rest.
The Panthers were able to contain Primeros’ leading scorer Lucas Mestas, who came into the game averaging fifteen points a game. Mestas stands six foot, five inches and was dominated by the Cats under the boards. John Mall held Mestas to six points for the night.
The second quarter scoring fury continued, as the Panthers broke from their game plan to drive the ball to the inside. They were able to hit from all over the court. Jordan Bobian, Michael Maldonado and Wiggins each hit from three in the second quarter. By half, the Panthers were in complete control of the game, leading 40-6.
The second half started much like the first with a full-court press and man-to-man coverage shutting down Primero’s chances for a comeback. John Mall continued to control the ball but several mistakes kept the Panthers from exploding for more points. John Mall continued to struggle at the charity line; otherwise the Panthers could have beaten Primero by an additional dozen or more points.
At one point in the game, John Mall opened up a forty- point lead when Maldonado hit a three-point jumper from the corner to put the Cats over the half century mark and a 51-11 point lead with 2:41 remaining in the third.
The final quarter still saw plenty of action, highlighted by a reverse lay-up by Zac Harriman, his only points of the game and a slurry of points by MichaelRyan Griego in the closing minutes. With a score of 60-17, Griego drove the basket and was fouled. He converted two of two from the line. Griego, off a steal, again drove the lane for two more, then added another bucket to give the Panthers a 66-19 point lead.
Griego and Wiggins were tied as the team’s leading scorers. Freshman Tyler Berger closed out the Panther scoring at the end of the game with a three-point, all-net ball from the top of the key.