Panthers end season with loss in Ojo Caliente

By John Earp

Last Saturday, the Jal Panthers Boys Varsity Basketball Team (14-14 overall; 5-3 in district) travelled to Ojo Caliente, in far northern New Mexico to play against the Mesa Vista Trojans (23-5 overall; 9-1 in district) in the first round of the state tournament. The Trojans started out the first period very strong, playing a very tight game with excellent ball handling, passing, and layups. The Trojans appeared to have a significant overall height advantage to the Panthers, in addition to being an obviously well-coached and disciplined team. With three minutes remaining in the first period, the Trojans were ahead 14-9. The Panthers were able to come back from a bigger deficit in the latter half of the first period, and at the end of the first period, the Trojans led 22-15.

The second period started out with the Trojans quickly pulling ahead to a 10-point lead. Near the middle of the period, the Panthers had rallied and improved both their offensive and defensive play, especially three-point shots and recovering turnovers, pulling to within four points of the Trojans, 26-22. The Trojans then came roaring back offensively, sinking several three-point shots and layups. With about a minute left in the second period, the Trojans began just holding the ball, apparently stalling for some reason. At halftime, the Trojans led 31-24.

In the third period, the Panthers didn’t fare much better, with the Trojans gaining an 11-point lead halfway through the period, 41-30. At the end of the third period, the Trojans led 48-37, maintaining the kind of lead they had held for most of the game. The Trojans were especially effective in rebounds and layups, while the Panthers continued to struggle to make baskets. The Trojans offense and defense was very on point, with very few mistakes, while the Panthers struggled to be consistently on target. With four minutes remaining in the game, the Trojans led 62-53. The emotional tension picked up especially in the fourth quarter, with the game being paused for a bit, with two fans being ejected and also a technical being called against the Trojans. With less than a minute remaining in the game, the Panthers trailed 55-72. There were numerous personal fouls in the game on both sides, more than would seem to be normal, no doubt due to the excitement level, which was very noticeable throughout the game, and which certainly advantaged the Trojans, being the home team. Final score was 72-59.