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Hartsoe’s buzzer-beater helps Montezuma-Cortez take down Ignacio

Panthers bounce back after Crested Butte derailed M-CHS rally at final horn on Friday

BAYFIELD – It was the best of times on Saturday night – a drastic reversal from the night before, where the Montezuma-Cortez Panthers suffered the worst of times.

Two buzzer-beaters in a span of 24 hours, and the Panthers tasted both the ecstasy of victory and the heartache of defeat at the end of a ball ripping the cords as the final horn sounded.

In its third meeting with Ignacio in two weeks, Montezuma-Cortez (8-13, 4-6 in 4A/3A Intermountain League play) rallied from 10 down in the second half, knotting up the game at 55, and had the ball at midcourt with just two seconds remaining.

Freshman Asher Bennett lobbed in the pass to sophomore Trace Hartsoe, who spun to his left from nearly 30 feet from the hoop and heaved a shot toward the rim as the horn sounded – right as the ball splashed in.

The Panthers bench mobbed Hartsoe in a 58-55 win, earning Montezuma-Cortez third place in the 3A IML-Southern Peaks district tournament. The Panthers are also guaranteed a spot in the 3A state tournament.

The win came as a fitting remedy for the bitter taste of their 70-68 Friday night defeat to Crested Butte, a game in which the Panthers suffered the heavy feeling of watching the Titans celebrate a buzzer beater of their own that relegated the Panthers to the consolation bracket.

For the second straight encounter with Ignacio, Montezuma-Cortez played catch-up for the majority of the contest, but flipped the switch in the second half to overcome a double-figure deficit.

Ignacio (8-14, 2-8 in league play) built a 25-17 lead in the first half behind hot 3-point shooting – seven in the opening 16 minutes – while the Panthers fell cold.

However, for the second time in two days, coach Mike Hall’s Panthers second half adjustments turned the game on its head, as junior Caidin Leonard turned in a torrid second half, scoring 18 of his game-high 21 points in the rally that started late in the third quarter.

Four Leonard triples brought the Panthers back within a single-score game, and sophomore Wyatt Oliver drove the baseline to tie the game at 55 with under a minute in regulation.

Ignacio’s Ambrose Valdez, Trace Crane and Phillip Quintana each scored 11 points, as the Bobcats held a 36-29 lead heading into the fourth quarter.

However, the Panther offense caught fire with Leonard, Oliver, and freshman Trey Hall accounting for 20 points in the final frame, setting up the dramatic finish and Hartsoe’s memorable shot.

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