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Defense ignites Palo Verde win

Palo Verde likes to push the pace on the basketball court, so it was a welcomed sight for the Panthers as Coronado came calling Friday night.

Even though the Cougars also play an up-tempo pace, it was Palo Verde’s defense that made the difference.

The Panthers held Coronado to two field goals and forced five turnovers in the final four minutes as Palo Verde earned an 87-79 victory, its first win of the season.

The Cougars (0-2) were without 6-foot-7-inch senior Jamel Morgan, who missed the game due to an illness.

Still, Coronado trailed by only 74-69 with 4:14 left after Brett Hoisington’s 12-footer.

However, Coronado, which made 26 field goals in the first 28-plus minutes, made only two from the field the rest of the way.

“We told the kids to play smart basketball down the stretch,” Palo Verde coach Jermone Riley said. “We like to push the tempo, but once we get a lead late, we need to learn how to finish. Our team is getting better and better each time we step on the floor.”

Moses Morgan, saddled with foul trouble in the first half, led six Panthers scorers in double figures with 21 points.

Bryce Cotton added 18 points, Drew Topham 14,  D.J. Stennis 12 and Davion Pearson and Nick Hipwell 10 each.

Morgan made the difference for the Panthers (1-1), with 15 points and just one foul in the second half.

“Moses is maturing physically and mentally each and every day,” Riley said. “He’s a very coachable kid, and that’s a delight to have. He’s going to be a great player for us.”

The Cougars erased a 10-point deficit in the opening half to pull even at 42-all at halftime.

Palo Verde did a much better job on the Cougars’ outside game in the second half.

Coronado’s William Wakefield, who hit four 3-pointers in the first half, didn’t have a trey in the second half.

“We didn’t know much about Coronado, so we were glad to see that they wanted a fast pace as well,” Riley said. “We made the plays late and hit the big shots when needed. It’s good to get a big win like this early in the season.”

Wakefield led Coronado with 20 points.

Austin Nelson added 17 and Nicholas Schmitt 10 for the Cougars.

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