Winning on the road in district play is rarely easy. The boys’ basketball team learned that tough lesson Tuesday night in Harper. The homestanding Longhorns employed a box-and-one defense early on to slow down junior Ian Ray, and for a while it worked to perfection. Harper jumped out to a 17-9 lead before senior Tanner Rogers took a steal the length of the floor for a layup to jumpstart the team. It would be the first of three huge momentum-turning defensive plays the Panthers would make in the game. After Rogers’ score, the Panthers settled into a nice rhythm for the rest of the half.
With six seconds to go in the half, sophomore David Ramirez made the second huge defensive play for the Panthers, picking off a Longhorn inbound pass and taking it in for another layup to cut the Horn lead to one. Though still trailing, the Panthers carried the momentum into the second half. Harper was able to hold the Panthers at bay for a while, but Ramirez stroked a three from the corner to give the Panthers a 33-32 lead that would not change hands again. Ray, junior Kyle Sauceda, and Rogers went to work inside, and controlled the glass for the remainder of the game, as the Panthers took home a 39-18 edge on rebounds. On one possession, all three got their hands on at least one offensive rebound before Rogers finally converted the put-back. Ray finished with 13 rebounds, Sauceda with 11, and Rogers with 10.
Fourth-year starter Reagan Randle hit a three from the corner for the Longhorns to cut the Panther lead to 43-42 late in the fourth quarter, causing some tension among the Blanco faithful, but Ramirez struck again on the next Harper possession, swooping in for a steal. Though he missed the ensuing layup, Rogers was there trailing the play and converted another put-back. On its next possession, the Harper offense turned it over to Rogers again. Blanco then went on to convert 6-of-6 free throws down the stretch to ice the game and win, 51-42. Ramirez’ 15 points led the Panthers, followed by Rogers’ 14, and Ray added 10 despite being the focus of the Harper defense throughout the night. Rogers had 5 steals to lead the Panthers, while he and Ray each had 3 deflections.
The JV also moved to 2-0 in district play, with a 10 point victory over Harper.
In other games in the district, Ingram defeated Junction 70-45. Comfort played a non-district game on its bye week, losing to Stacey by twenty. The Panthers had a bye on Friday, the 20th, and resumed action with four straight home games starting Tuesday night against Junction. Friday night’s game against Ingram will feature the last two remaining undefeated teams in the district.