The two Grand County high schools met on the basketball court at Middle Park High School on Tuesday, Dec. 17, to settle the age-old rivalry and earn title as the best basketball team in the county going into the New Year.
The West Grand Mustangs claimed the victory with a 74-48 win over the Panthers, putting up 43 points in the first half of the game and holding the Panthers to only 17 points.
With the animated crowd cheering on teams in what evidently is the most-attended and looked-forward-to game of the season, the West Grand Mustangs, made up of mostly seniors, took the game pushing their season record to five wins and one losses.
The loss for the Panthers brings their season record to two wins and five losses.
The Panther’s team, with only two seniors, managed to put 31 points on the board in the second half of the game, bringing them to a total of 48 points, which is above their season average for points of 45.7 per game.
The Mustangs scored well above their season average of 58.2 points per game by putting 74 points on the board against the much younger Panther team.
The difference in the age and size of the two teams is apparent as they took the court Tuesday night, with the Mustangs nearly dwarfing all but one of the Panther starting lineup.
The Panthers did not let their smaller size impact their intensity. The Panthers were regularly driving the ball to the basket and drawing fowls from the larger Mustangs team members.
The Panthers also had no trouble putting pressure on the Mustangs and would often utilize numbers to effectively defend the Mustang players, while relying heavily on Jace Linke, one of Middle Park’s seniors, to defend the hoop.
The large crowd in attendance at the game, some sporting painted faces with most donning their school’s colors, made sure the teams on the floor heard their support by cheering and stomping for nearly every event that took place on the court.
While West Grand’s cheerleaders weren’t leading the crowd during the game, that did not stop the team’s fans from making sure their voices were heard as their team pushed on to victory, oftentimes cheering louder than the home crowd.
The two coaches for the teams, West Grand’s Coach Leo Pesch and Middle Park’s Coach James Newberry, stayed on top of their teams throughout the game and neither of the coaches sat down for more than a few minutes.
West Grand scored numerous 3-pointers during the game, helping the team to attain the high score, and keeping the crowd cheering wildly for the players.
Despite the high scoring Mustangs team, the Middle Park team fought hard until the finish of the game.
Middle Park’s fans never seemed to give up on the younger team, and cheered its players on until the final buzzer.
West Grand walked away from the game with two wins against the hometown rivals this season, winning the first game by a much smaller margin of nine points.
Next year’s matchup between the two teams will be interesting as the Panther team gains more experience with age, and West Grand loses some of its top players.
Reid Tulley can be reached at 970-887-3334