A year ago, the Blanco boys’ basketball team came into the Junction game riding a nice wave of momentum and with an opportunity to pretty much end the playoff chances of the 0-2 Junction Eagles. They failed to do so, and that failure ended up costing the team a playoff spot at the end of the season. Tuesday night, the boys’ basketball team came into the Junction game, again with momentum, and again with a chance to bury the Eagles, and took absolutely no chances that the same scenario would play out. The Panthers opened the game on an 18-0 run and were never threatened in a 60-28 rout.
The early barrage of the Panthers was highlighted by consecutive three-point shots by junior Sam Isenberg and senior Tanner Rogers. That pair was instrumental in the Panther attack all night, though usually with deft passing rather than shooting. Rogers finished the night with 7 assists and Isenberg with 5. Sophomore David Ramirez continued his strong play, going for 9 points, but adding 4 steals. Junior Ian Ray, fighting an illness, took an assist from modern medicine on his way to 16 points and 17 rebounds, both leading the team. Kyle Sauceda joined in with 11 points and 9 rebounds on the evening.
Junction was unable to field a junior varsity team, so with the game in hand, the Blanco JV starters played much of the fourth quarter. Sophomore Carlin Green hit a couple of jumpers from 17 feet for his four points. Junior Chad Marshall added a point, freshman Logan Dodd played strong defensively, and sophomore Josh McCaslin had an assist. The JV kids, with the help of Sauceda, actually increased the lead by one during their time on the court.
In other action on the night, Harper moved to 2-2 in district play with an 11-point win over Comfort, who dropped to 0-3. Blanco and Ingram were tied at 3-0 heading into Friday night’s showdown, with Harper at 2-2, and Comfort and Junction checking in at 0-3 going into their Friday night tilt.
The much-anticipated clash between District 8-AA’s final two unbeatens lived up the hype. For three-and-a-half quarters, the Blanco Panthers and the Ingram Warriors engaged in a dead-even battle for district supremacy, with each team securing momentum for a moment before the other wrestled it back away. In the end, though, the game boiled down to shot-making. Ingram made theirs; Blanco missed them.
The visiting Warriors seized control early on. After an alley-oop from Ian Ray to Tanner Rogers started the game, the Warriors scored the next eight points, behind two long three-pointers. Ingram went on to hit seven threes on the night. After a quick timeout, the Panthers seemed get things back in order, and the first quarter ended with a 13-8 Ingram lead.
The next two quarters went back-and-forth. The Panthers relied on their edge on the boards, as they held a 44-33 edge for the evening. Ray led the squad with 14 rebounds, sophomore Kyle Sauceda had 12, and Rogers had 7. Often, however, the Panthers failed to fully capitalize on this advantage, as Blanco shot only 32% as a team for the game despite getting many good looks. To add to the frustration, they shot an abysmal 9-for-23 at the free throw line, a far cry from their recent performances.
Despite their struggles, the Panthers entered the fourth quarter down by only four, 38-34, thanks in no small part to a very strong showing by junior Colton Childress, who continued his strong play into the fourth quarter. They eventually tied the game at 45, but lost senior Josh Wilson in transition, who made them pay by hitting only his second three-pointer of the season and first since November. The Panthers threatened again and again, but never again caught Ingram. A three-pointer from the corner by senior Tyler Scherer was the dagger, putting the game out of reach for good.
Blanco goes into the second round of district play in second place, with a 3-1 record. A win at home against a winless Comfort, coupled with a win at home on Friday against 2-2 Harper clinched a playoff spot. In such a scenario, the Panthers will either go into the playoffs as a 1 or 2 seed from district 8. The rematch with Ingram will take place on February 14 in Ingram.
The JV took command of the district lead with a 9-point win over Ingram, avenging a loss in the finals of the Blanco Tournament. Carlin Green paced the Panthers with 17 points. Chad Marshall, Chandler Stewart, Will Byler and Josh McCaslin also had strong games.