Saturday, Jan. 17, 2009 | midnight
It took a little more than a full half of basketball, but the Palo Verde Panthers shook off the rust of finals week with a convincing second-half effort in a 77-52 win over Valley Friday night.
The Vikings were thinking upset as they came out of the first half down 34-30, but a strong finish by the Panthers put the game out of reach early in the fourth quarter.
"We came out slow as a team," said junior Moses Morgan. "We should have done way better defensively, they were getting by us and we weren't helping each other out. I think it was because of finals week, everybody had testing and we didn't have practice for a few days."
Morgan led the Panthers (11-2, 3-0) with 28 points and nine rebounds despite sitting part of the second half because of foul trouble. Junior Andrew Topham also had a solid night, finishing with 12 points and six rebounds.
With 2:40 remaining in the third quarter and the Panthers clinging to a 45-40 lead, momentum threatened to shift to the Vikings (7-12, 1-2) when Morgan and starting forward Nick Hipwell picked up their fourth fouls within four seconds of each other. The Panther bench responded in their absence, pushing the lead to 53-41 by the end of quarter to help put the game away.
"The thing about my bench is that they know they're going to play," said Panthers coach Jerome Riley. "We play 11 guys at times. A couple guys came off the bench tonight and they gave us the spark that we needed. It says a lot about those guys thay they're always ready to play."
The Vikings were able to stay in the game as long as they did by capitalizing on a streak of Palo Verde turnovers that led to points on the other end. Sophomore Chris Marshall gave Valley its own spark off the bench, finishing with 12 points.
An inability to find their shot proved to be the downfall of the Vikings as they scored just 22 points in the second half and finished 13-of-33 from the free-throw line.
Leading scorer and outside shooter Johnquez Brooks finished with nine points while failing to connect from beyond the arc.
Vikings coach Brian Farnsworth also noticed the effect the exam break had on his team.
"Free throws were bad in the first half and not much better in the second half," Farnsworth said. "You can't simulate a game situation in practice. We try our best but nothing is the same as in the game. We just have to step up to the line and knock down shots with confidence."
Although the score indicated a solid performance by the Panthers, Riley felt fortunate that the slow start following finals week didn't come during a league game.
"Thank god it wasn't a league game the way we came out," Riley said. "We were extremely lethargic, I wish we could have played better. We're a defensive first team and we didn't come out with that attitude, we got to do a better job than that."
Brett Okamoto can be reached at 948-7817 or [email protected].