Palo Verde toughens up on ‘D’

Brannon Cresanto had just hit his eighth 3-pointer of the game to give Foothill a one-point lead when Palo Verde coach Jermone Riley called timeout to gently remind his players that they ought to guard the sharpshooter.

The reminder worked, as Cresanto didn’t hit another field goal, and the Panthers pulled away for an 87-74 win in the championship game of the Foothill Holiday Classic on Wednesday.

“We can’t let a great shooter get wide-open looks,” Riley said. “Too many guys were missing their assignments defensively, and one of their assignments was to make him a driver and not allow him to get his feet set and knock down shots, because he’s a heck of a shooter.”

Nahjee Matlock’s three-point play with 9:17 left gave the Panthers the lead again and keyed an 8-0 run that allowed Palo Verde to stretch its edge to 67-60. Foothill didn’t get closer than four points the rest of the way.

Palo Verde’s guards keyed the offense again, with Matlock scoring 22 points and point guard Eris Winder adding 21 points, three assists and six steals.

Jordyn Martin, a 6-foot-7-inch senior forward, had 14 points, 12 rebounds, two blocked shots and three steals for the Panthers.

Martin, who averaged 14.3 points and was second in the tournament in rebounding at 9.3 per game, was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player. The versatile Martin sees time at all three frontcourt spots for Palo Verde.

“Jordyn is a special kid,” Riley said. “He does a little bit of everything. Whatever the team needs him to do, he’ll do. Any college that gets this kid is getting a heck of a steal, a great kid that can impact any Division I college.”

Palo Verde used its defense to create transition opportunities, with the speedy Matlock and Winder often racing ahead of the pack for layups.

The Panthers forced 29 turnovers, turning them into 38 points. They scored 27 points off turnovers in the first half.

“That’s what you need to do against this team,” Riley said. “They are the best in town at what they do, and if you let these guys get into a halfcourt set, they will punish you with movement and unselfish play.

“So we had to let our defense work for us.”

Cresanto was 8-for-15 on 3-pointers and totaled 28 points.

“We preach about closing games, and this was a game that we needed to close,” Riley said. “We’re in their gym, on the road, and to come here and get a win is really going to prepare us for our long-term goal, which is to win a state championship.”

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

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