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Thursday, Jan. 12, 2012 | 12:05 a.m.
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Las Vegas Sun reporters Case Keefer and Ray Brewer talk about the week's high school basketball games, including the impressive starts to league play by Silverado and Valley.
Palo Verde High junior guard Eris Winder is starting to make an argument for being classified as one of best basketball players in the Las Vegas Valley for the class of 2013.
Winder scored the Panthers’ final five points Wednesday in a 70-66 win against host Cheyenne, helping his team prevail despite nearly blowing an 18-point lead in the fourth quarter.
Palo Verde led 56-38 with seven minutes remaining, but Cheyenne never quit and trimmed the deficit to a more manageable four points with less than a minute to play. But Winder calmly drove to the basket for a layup while being fouled with 38 seconds left, then nailed a foul shot to convert the three-point play in finishing with a game-high 26 points.
Cheyenne scored the next six points to trail by only two points with five seconds remaining, but Winder drained a pair of foul shots for the final points. Winder averaged 15 points per game last year as a sophomore and plays with the confidence of an elite player.
“I really like what I saw from Winder. He really looked like a polished player at the end of the game,” Palo Verde coach Jermone Riley said.
Palo Verde played without team leader Jordyn Martin (the 6-foot-7 big man was resting a sore back) on the inside, but still opened the game on a 16-4 run and led 19-6 after the first quarter. Sophomore Darryl Gaynor finished with 17 points, including eight in the opening quarter.
“Every game is a learning experience. We played some young guys at the end of the game tonight and it was great experience for them,” Riley said. “At the same time, toward the end of the game, we have to do all the simple things like block out and take charges. We don’t need points at that moment. We can’t be in a hurry. We need to do all the little things to close out the game.”
Cheyenne was far from finished. The Desert Shields opened the second quarter by making several shots, eventually taking a 25-24 lead with about two minutes to play in the opening half.
But Winder scored six straight points and Palo Verde closed the half on a 10-2 run for a seven-point halftime advantage. Despite relying on several younger players — senior point guard Nahjee Matlock finished with 10 points in limited action because of foul trouble — the Panthers showed several flashes of great play in remaining undefeated in the Northwest Division.
They just couldn’t sustain the effort — especially late in the game.
“We have to finish games. That is what we need to work on in practice,” Winder said. “We have some tough games coming up so we need to learn how to finish games the right way.”
Bryan Laws led Cheyenne with 19 points and Gary Stewart scored 18.
“They have a real good team,” Riley said of Cheyenne. “Once they get it together they might be the team that comes around in this league and starts beating people. Their guards are just as good as any team in this city.”