WALSENBURG– For the second time in less than a week, the John Mall Panthers faced the Cotopaxi Pirates. The last time the two schools met, the Pirates defeated the Cats 60-41. On Tuesday, they met in the first round of district action and avenged their earlier loss, eliminating the Pirates from further playoff action. The Cats played some of the best ball of their season and won when they needed it the most, beating Cotopaxi 64-59 before a near capacity hometown crowd. They will travel to Florence tomorrow to face the Cougars of Custer County in the second round of district action. Tip-off is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. The Cougars sport a 19-2 record and defeated the Cats earlier in the season. The Cats’ victory Tuesday helped solidify the team as a mature unit and prepare them for the Cougars.
After the victory, when I asked Coach Harriman the difference between Friday night’s loss and Tuesday’s victory, he just smiled and said, “Road Trips. We played back-to-back away games. The Panthers have trouble on the road.” Tuesday’s game was close from the start and the Cats managed to control the tempo of the game. They played with a better rhythm and are beginning to understand each other’s movements.
Charlie Whitehead dominated underneath, bringing down the necessary defensive boards. The game got tight late in the fourth as the Pirates pulled within three, 57-54. Whitehead scored six straight points to widen the gap and secure the Panthers’ spot in the next playoff round. He led all scoring at 19, while teammates Jacob Wiggins hit 15 and Greg Bobian, 13.
If the Cats peaked, they did so at the right time of the season. For them to advance in the playoffs, they need to get over their “away” fears and hope the confines of a neutral gym will help them play at their best. The Panthers will advance to regional action no matter the outcome of this weekend’s game; only their seeding and location has yet to be determined.