Thursday, Dec. 13, 2012 | 10:20 p.m.
Las Vegas Sun sports reporters Ray Brewer and Case Keefer revisit their positions from last week's podcast after a surprising set of results changes perceptions.
In the span of 24 hours, Palo Verde accomplished something that the majority of high school basketball teams won’t all season.
The Panthers defeated two of the better teams in town despite a fourth-quarter deficit on back-to-back nights, and by nearly identical scores. After beating Eldorado 80-78 Wednesday night, Palo Verde came back to down Canyon Springs 81-78 on Thursday.
“It’s just great to win two tight games,” Palo Verde coach Paul Sanchez said. “It builds some character and helps us continue to make strides forward.”
The victories helped the Panthers put a rough start to the season behind, as they improved to 3-2 on the year. It’s a start Sanchez is happy with, especially considering Palo Verde suits up nine players who weren’t on last year’s varsity squad.
One of those newcomers, Trayvail Toliver, made particularly meaningful plays off of the bench in both games. The 6-foot-6 junior who moved from Las Vegas to Chicago sank a game-winning layup with two seconds left to beat Eldorado.
With 1:45 to go against Canyon Springs, Toliver converted on another shot under the basket to put Palo Verde ahead 73-71.
It was a lead the Panthers never relinquished.
“I like having the ball in my hands then,” Toliver said. “It just happened. It was just a coincidence.”
Not completely. Palo Verde’s standout point guard Eris Winder set Toliver, who had eight points and six rebounds against Canyon Springs, up with assists on both field goals.
The senior Winder, who had 28 points and eight assists against the Pioneers, and junior Darryl Gaynor, 24 points and four rebounds, kept the Panthers close throughout Wednesday’s game.
The Panthers were up 36-31 at halftime, but a spirited third-quarter effort led by senior Tim Straghter — who had 22 points and 16 rebounds — put the Pioneers in control.
They appeared on track for a victory when senior Chris Swanson, who had 15 points and six assists, nailed a three-pointer to make the score 59-52 early in the fourth quarter.
Gaynor and Winder awoke from there, each making momentum-shifting baskets for the Panthers. Winder drained a long three off of a pass from Gaynor to give Palo Verde its first lead since early in the third quarter with two minutes to go.
“They’re our leaders,” Sanchez said of Winder and Gaynor. “They are both strong players.”
Shaquille Carr, who finished with a game-high 28 points, did all he could to keep Canyon Springs alive late with five points in the final two minutes. But Palo Verde made more free throws than its opponent down the stretch to hold on for another win.
These last two days served as a major step in the right direction for the Panthers.
“We’ve been sticking to the basics and trying to get everyone on the same page,” Sanchez said. “Tight games like this are when you learn to trust each other and depend on each other.”