Cotopaxi outlasts Panthers in nail biter

Sierra Grande sophomore Isiah Chairez (12) out jumps the competition in the first quarter of Friday’s meeting with Cotopaxi (VC/ Jiron)

BLANCA — Sierra Grande boys basketball got all they could handle on Friday night when Cotopaxi came to town. In a competition that came down to the wire, the visiting Pirates bested Sierra Grande by a score of 51-50.

It has been a bumpy ride for Sierra Grande (4-9, 3-2 SPL) who alternated between wins and losses entering their meeting with Cotopaxi. The Panthers bested Moffat and Antonito but couldn’t get past Center and would enter Friday on a low note suffering a loss to Sanford on Tuesday. Cotopaxi has been experiencing similar difficulties (10-5, 5-2 SPL) dropping two straight entering Friday’s meeting.

Friday’s game saw plenty of momentum swings from quarter to quarter. Sierra Grande benefitted from the first one of the night to outscore the Pirates 11-7 with Isiah Chairez leading with 6 points in the first quarter.

Cotopaxi took the next swing with a 13-9 second quarter to send the teams to the break tied at 20-all.

Coming back from the break the Panthers exploded. An eight-point run combined with Sophomore Chairez capitalizing on fouls to complete two three-point plays put the Panthers in great position with a 33-23 lead entering the final quarter.

Cotopaxi took a chunk out of the lead with an eight-point run to start the quarter and it was a race to the finish. Cotopaxi’s Ty Coleman caught fire and buried four 3-pointers in the fourth quarter to keep Cotopaxi in the hunt. Sierra Grande’s Keaton Fisher also found his fourth-quarter reserve tallying all 11 of his points for the Panthers in the final frame.

In the final minute with Sierra Grande leading 48-46, the Panthers would foul Chance Gulliford. The Cotopaxi senior would only cash in on one of his shots from the charity stripe leaving Sierra Grande leading 48-47. That, combined with a lax defense on the Panthers possession and an intentional foul sending Fisher to the free-throw line, it looked to be all but over. Especially since Fisher sank both of his free throw attempts  to put the Panthers firmly in control 50-47 with less than a minute to play.

Cotopaxi found a way and benefitting on a traveling call, put up four unanswered in the final ticks to sneak ahead and get out of Blanca with their first win in February. Isiah Chairez led the Panthers in scoring with 16 points on Friday night.

Sierra Grande will get a little downtime before their next tough challenge. The Panthers are scheduled to welcome the undefeated Sangre de Cristo Thunderbirds (13-0, 6-0 SPL) on Feb. 13th. Sierra Grande and Sangre de Cristo are slated for a 5 p.m. start.

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