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Guards power Palo Verde into tourney title game

On Monday, Palo Verde center Michael Buchanan was the team’s first option, scoring 27 points in the Panthers’ 12-point quarterfinal win over Eldorado.

On Tuesday, it was all about the guards.

Eris Winder, Darryl Gaynor and Nahjee Matlock combined to score 56 points as Palo Verde beat Valley 96-76 to move into the Gold Division championship game at the Foothill Holiday Classic.

The Panthers will play Foothill in the title game at 7:40 tonight. The Falcons defeated Melbourne, Australia, 59-54.

"That’s the advantage of having a well-balanced team," Palo Verde coach Jermone Riley said. "We have really good guards, and our bigs are playing really well. … We have a saying, ‘We all get the glory at the end. One man does not make up our team.’ "

Palo Verde used a 1-3-1 zone early to take Valley out of its game, and the guards set the tempo, turning 13 first-half turnovers into 21 points as the Panthers took a 45-34 lead at the break.

Palo Verde pushed that lead to 19 in the first eight minutes of the second half and cruised from there.

Winder, a junior point guard, led the way with 26 points and seven assists. He was 11-for-16 from the field, as Palo Verde often got out in transition.

Jordyn Martin, a 6-foot-7-inch senior forward, added 18 points and six rebounds for Palo Verde.

"We’ve been blessed to have really big guys like Jordyn and Mike who can score down there and are a low-post presence along with Nahjee Matlock and Eris Winder who can put pressure on guards outside," Riley said.

Matlock had 14 points and five assists, and Gaynor, a sophomore, came off the bench to add 16 points, seven rebounds and five assists.

"Gaynor’s a great sixth man for us, a high-energy kid off the bench," Riley said. "He’s adjusting to this varsity game really well, a lot faster than what I thought."

Caleb Carter led Valley with 25 points and nine rebounds, and Keanu Peters scored 10 points for the Vikings.

Riley said playing for the tournament title is a nice reward for his players’ hard work, but the spot in the final isn’t a surprise.

"We have some experienced players, and we expect a lot," Riley said. "The bar is set high for these guys."

Contact prep sports editor Damon Seiters at dseiters@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-4587.

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