Central girls fall to Cortez in basketball

Central’s Taylor Hice, 24, and Cortez’s Kelia Yanito, 32, battle for a rebound Saturday during the Warriors’ 53-33 loss to the Panthers.

The Central High School girls basketball team was within striking distance.

The Warriors trailed Montezuma-Cortez 26-24 midway through the third quarter Saturday at Central High School, before three straight 3-pointers from the Panthers helped propel Cortez to a 53-33 victory.

“I gave a pretty fiery speech at halftime,” Central coach Todd Dixon said. “We responded with a good run, but they are a little more seasoned than we are and made a run.”

Trailing 24-18 at halftime, the Warriors (2-17, 0-7 Southwestern League) had a 6-2 spurt in the beginning of the third quarter to cut the deficit to two points with 4:28 remaining. The Warriors got a 3-pointer from Jordan Eller, followed by two free throws from Taylor Hice, and a layup from Brittany Hoppe that brought the score to 26-24, and forced the Panthers to take a timeout.

“The past two games we’ve forced the other team to call timeouts and we haven’t had that all season,” Dixon said. “That’s definitely a sign of growth, and a sign of a team going in the right direction.”

The Panthers have always been respected as a strong 3-point shooting team, and Sydney Bayles, Keely Yanito and Keila Yanito all hit 3s in the span of one minute to Cortez’s lead to 35-24.

After the Warriors pulled within two, Cortez finished the third quarter on a 15-0 run that gave it a 41-24 lead.

“They have some really good shooters on the floor,” Dixon said. “We had people in the wrong defense, and not everyone was on the same page.”

Deflated after the third quarter, Central scored only six points the rest of the way.

“No one can see from the score how hard we worked,” Eller said. “In the third quarter we were right there.”

Dixon said the Warriors could taste their first SWL win at halftime.

“The halftime speech was we can win a conference game right now,” Dixon said. “We did some good things, but hand it to Cortez, it’s their job to stop us and they did that.” Keila Yanito had 17 points for the Panthers, and Bayles added 14.

Hoppe led Central with 12 points and Eller finished with 11.

“I like the effort we gave,” Dixon said. “But, Cortez has been playing well this whole year, and we couldn’t stop their run.”


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