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Panthers, Bears return to action in East Nic
The Love of the Game Tournament at East Nicolaus High signaled the end of the holiday break for the Maxwell and Pierce high boys and girls basketball teams on Thursday.
Maxwell, Pierce, Biggs and East Nicolaus sent their entire basketball programs to the tournament, a round-robin format which allows all four teams to bring their junior varsity and varsity, boys and girls teams.
Opening day ended with Maxwell running away with victories in the varsity girls and varsity boys games against the host Spartans.
The Pierce boys team beat Biggs earlier in the day and the Pierce girls lost to Biggs. The Bears played East Nicolaus on Friday and face off against Maxwell in the round-robin tournament on Saturday. On Saturday, the girls game between Maxwell and Pierce starts at 2:30 and the boys game begins immediately after.
Scores and statistics for the Pierce games were unavailable before press time but will appear in Wednesday's paper.
Maxwell 46, East Nic 28
Panthers coach Leo LaGrande had a lot to worry about before playing the Spartans. Maxwell starting forward Jessie Otterson was out sick and East Nicolaus center Darleen Herrin entered the game averaging 16 points a contest.
His team quickly put his concerns to rest, jumping out to a 17-7 lead at the end of the first quarter on the strength of center Kaily McKinley, who scored seven points in the quarter while holding Herrin to just three.
Brittney Haywood and Jenna Powell rotated over to help replace Otterson and both finished with eight points.
"Both of them are starters and so we've just been practicing the last three days knowing Jessie wasn't going to be there — they stepped it up," LaGrande said.
The Panthers went on a 8-0 run in the second quarter, pushing the lead to 25-11, which provided the cushion they needed when the Spartans made a comeback in the third quarter.
East Nicolaus came out in the press and held the Panthers to one point for the first six minutes of the second half while cutting the lead to 30-22. Haywood hit a jump shot and Powell knocked down two free throws at the end of the third period for a double-digit lead.
Maxwell began to wear down the Spartans in the fourth quarter and the press ceased to be effective.
"I think that really helped us in the fourth quarter, the third quarter we couldn't do anything but in the fourth quarter our stamina finished the game for us," LaGrande said.
Shelen Boyes harassed the Spartan ball handlers all game and led the charge through the press in the fourth quarter to finish with six points.
McKinley scored a game-high 16 points, and Ashley Azevedo added six points. Herrin led East Nicolaus with nine points.
Maxwell 65, East Nicolaus 37
Three Panthers made at least two 3-point shots and center Zach Troughton dominated in the paint to the tune of 21 points as Maxwell beat the host Spartans 65-37.
"That's what we want, balance inside and outside," Maxwell coach Forest Bateman said.
East Nicolaus guard Drew Orr did his best to match up with Troughton on defense while running the Spartans offense, often hitting contested 3-pointers from NBA distance, but his 21 points couldn't make up for the Panthers' depth.
George Barajas pushed the pace, forcing East Nicolaus to sprint back on defense each time up the floor. Barajas and Trent Mathis scored nine points, each knocking down three 3-pointers. Isaias Martinez hit two 3-pointers and scored 12 points.
Hunter Ortiz and Thomas Mitchum rotated in off the bench and contributed in the post. Ortiz scored five points before leaving the game after rolling his ankle when he was intentionally fouled on a fast break, and Mitchum scored four points.
The precision with which the Panthers played, especially in the first quarter when they jumped out to a 20-8 lead, surprised Bateman after the holiday vacation shook up their practice schedule.
"Our practices were sporadic, but when they came they gave it all in practice and worked their tails off. Today they came to play," Bateman said.
Maxwell controlled just about every aspect of the game, forcing turnovers and grabbing rebounds while hitting a high percentage of shots.
The Panthers entered halftime with a 36-16 lead and led by 31 points after three quarters.
CONTACT Kirk Barron at 824-1036 or email@example.com.