Panther boys lose in state 1A final

Serpents come in many varieties. Pahranagat Valley ran into the three-headed kind Saturday night in the 1A state boys basketball final at the Cox Pavilion. Three heads named Robert McFalls, Andre Davis and Taylen Wachsmuth, who led the way in beating Pahranagat Valley 63-46 to win their first state title since 1964.

Mineral County had last been in the state finals in 2006 where they lost to The Meadows in the 2A championship.

In the championship game against Pahranagat Valley, the Serpents speed and  quickness forced the Panthers to commit 10 turnovers in the first half and McFalls scored 13 points. He was quiet in the second half, but the Serpents by that time were leading 35-21 at the break and never looked back.

It was the first meeting between the two teams since the state semifinals in 2010, which Pahranagat won in overtime.

Pahranagat coach Mike Strong said the 6-3 Wachsmuth was tough on the boards, as were a couple of the other Serpents. “We don’t usually get outrebounded, but I’m sure we were tonight.”

Culen Highbe scored 12 points in the first half and finished with a game high 28  in an outstanding performance for the Panthers (25-3), with six rebounds. He was 12-of-17 from the floor and four-of-five at the foul line.  “The kids did a good job getting the ball to him and he did a fine job finishing inside,” Strong said.

For Mineral County, Wachsmuth had a team high 20 points, the exciting McFalls added 17, with 11 rebounds and Davis also had 17 points.

At the free throw line, Mineral County was 7-for-11 (63.6 percent) and Pahranagat was 6-for-9 (66 percent).

Friday night’s semifinal at Durango High was a blowout in favor of the Panthers, 68-29 over Owyhee. The boys had played Owyhee the first game of the season at the Wells Rural Electric tournament and beat them by 42 that time.

This game was much of the same. PVHS rolled to an 18-point lead at the end of the first quarter. Highbe led the way with 21 points. Tabor Maxwell scored 10 and Christian Higbee and Cody Williams both added nine points each, for Pahranagat who led at halftime 40-20. Most all of the subs got to play some in the second half.

Trevor Shaw was top man for Owyhee with 14 points.

Strong said the turnovers have been the Panthers Achilles’ heel all season long. “And (against Mineral County) it reared its head here, and all of a sudden they’re converting those buckets. They move, and did a really good passing the ball and finding the open guy for sure.”

As he was leaving the floor, Strong said, “I’m proud of my kids. We’ve had a heck of a season. They played hard and sometimes the ball doesn’t go in enough for you.”

Regardless of the outcome, it was one of the best seasons for the Panthers (25-3) in the past 20 years, another league tournament championship, their fifth since 2001, and a season record right up there with the excellent 25-4 mark in 2011 and 28-4 in 2006, both championship years.