Panthers go ‘downtown’ to dispatch Miners

Sierra Grande’s Ambrosio Mondragon (25) looks for a lane past Creede junior Casper Freedle (11) in Saturday’s 80-62 rout by the visiting Panthers. Also shown are leading scorer Arthur Rodriguez (3) and Miners senior Isaac Borchers (3).

CREEDE– “Live by the three, die by the three,” is an often-used adage when it comes to the game of basketball.

In a key Southern Peaks League (SPL) match-up here Saturday, the visiting Sierra Grande Panthers (12-3, 7-0 SPL) nailed 10-of-24 beyond the arc in a slightly surprising 80-62 route of the then once-beaten Creede Miners (14-2, 7-2 SPL). On the flip side, the hosts struggled from the outside hitting on just 2-of-18 from downtown.

Panther Junior Dylan Milner was a hot 5-of-6 from three-point land and finished with 21 points as senior teammate Arthur Rodriguez led all scorers with 34, equaling his season average which ranks third in the state all-class.

In the opener, the Panther girls dispatched the Miner ladies, 50-35, paving the way for the boys by building an early lead and outscoring Creede in the first three quarters.

Sierra Grande took command of the nightcap from the start and never trailed to forge an even tighter race in the Class 1A SPL boys’ division with themselves, Creede and Sangre de Cristo, setting up a league showdown with the latter on Feb. 16.

“We had players available for this game that we didn’t have the first time due to eligibility and injuries,” said Panthers coach Matt Lucero, noting that his team prepared hard for the Miners. “We’re also playing more together as a team now.”

Creede had defeated Sierra Grande, 63-47, at the Sangre tournament on Dec. 2.

The Panthers nailed three treys in a row to mount an 11-2 lead midway through the first period and led by as many as 29 a couple of times in the third quarter after taking a 33-21 lead into the intermission. A combination of zone and half-court press defense left the Miners struggling on offense most of the game as they shot just 37% for the night compared to the visitors’ 45%.

Sierra Grande was even more effective from the line going 16-of-19 (84%) to Creede’s 14-of-22 (64%). The Panthers drained four free throws in a row at the 7:25 mark of the fourth period to build a 71-42 cushion.

Creede coach Bob Koets said turnovers (15) and an inability to capitalize on threes were major factors in the tilt, as well as the Panthers’ 32 rebounds, led by Rodriguez’ 15 boards. Miners junior Colter Simon had 10 rebounds to lead his team.

Senior Issac Borchers and sophomore Marcos Romero led the Miners on offense with 18 points each.

“We played hard and didn’t quit,” Koets said about his Miners who were fresh off of an 87-58 rout of Mountain Valley on Friday. The Panthers warmed up for Saturday with a 74-49 win over Cotopaxi.

Three-pointers came into play in the girls’ game as well as Creede hit five of nine from beyond the arc in the loss, led by junior Jennyfer Kemper who scored all nine of her points with treys. Senior Olivia Madrid paced the Miners with 11 points, including 2-for-3 from long range. Junior Sophia Borchers added six points and topped the boards with 12 rebounds.

Sierra Grande was led by junior Abby Corona with 15, followed by senior Nina Vigil 10, sophomore Randi Espinosa 9 and junior Annahy Quezada 8. Three-point stats were not available for the Panthers.

Creede heads to Gunnison for a pair of neutral-court games this weekend with the top two teams in 1A District 1, DeBeque (9-3) on Friday and Ouray (8-8) on Saturday.

The Panthers have a Thursday date at LaVeta before returning home Saturday with Manzanola.