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August 20, 2019

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Prep Basketball:

Palo Verde rallies late to advance to Sunset Regional semifinals

Western at Palo Verde

Richard Brian

Palo Verde junior Moses Morgan (15) finishes an easy layup against Western during the Sunset Regional quarterfinals at Palo Verde High on Feb. 17. Morgan is one of the top basketball recruits in the nation for the class of 2010.

Sunset Regional quarterfinals: Western at Palo Verde

Palo Verde senior D.J. Stennis (1), center, throws up an acrobatic shot during the Sunset Regional quarterfinals against Western on Tuesday night. Launch slideshow »
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Top seeds aren't supposed trail a visiting opponent at halftime in the opening round of the playoffs.

But rather than panic when faced with that situation Tuesday, the Palo Verde boys' basketball team, the Northwest region's top seed, stayed calm and proceeded to blow out Western, the No. 4 seed from the Southwest, 64-47.

"A lot of times that's been our story this season," Palo Verde coach Jermone Riley said. "We've been down numerous times in the first half and came out in the second half with a sense of urgency."

The Panthers trailed in the Sunset Regional quarterfinal 26-22 at the half but exploded on a 13-4 run to begin the third quarter to take a 35-30 advantage.

Palo Verde then scored 12 unanswered points during a run that lasted from the final minute of the third quarter to midway through the fourth. In that stretch, Western went more than five minutes without scoring a field goal.

"We came out slow and sluggish, but we had a meeting in the locker room at halftime then came out strong," said Palo Verde guard Davion Pearson, who chipped in 14 points. "We knew if we lost, there was no more. Being division champs wouldn't mean anything if we didn't win tonight."

Riley said Palo Verde trailed early because it was up to three steps late rotating defensively in the first half. He credited the game's turnaround partially to the play of reserve point guard Bronston Abad, who played much of the second half and provided a spark.

"When you look at the game, the runs we made were primarily because of him," Riley said. "He came in on the defensive end and made plays. Also on the offensive end he made some great penetrating moves and found the open man."

Moses Morgan led Palo Verde with 16 points, while Andrew Topham chipped in 12. Ehbert Talice led Western with 14 points with support from Johnnie Diggs and Bradley Cairo who each had nine.

Palo Verde now moves on to host the region semifinal Thursday against Durango, which beat Mojave 58-56 Tuesday.

The Panthers will be looking for revenge against the Trailblazers, who eliminated Palo Verde in the first round of the region tournament last year.

"Since we lost to them last time, we have to come out strong," Abad said. "You want to get that revenge. When you lose in the first round like we did last year, it sickens you."

Christopher Drexel can be reached at 990-8929 or [email protected].

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