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Panthers Take First Victory Over Knights
Posted On:
Saturday, January 27, 2018
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Article courtesy of Santa Maria Times, Joe Bailey, Sportswriter 1/27/18

Pioneer Valley's boys basketball team continues to make history.

After beating Mission Prep for the first time in program history Tuesday night, the Panthers triumphed over St. Joseph Friday, marking the first time the Panthers have beaten the Knights in varsity basketball.

The Panthers used an array of moves to consistently scores inside against the Knights, knocked down some timely jump shots and threw a zone to slow down the Knight offense Friday. All of that combined for a 73-65 victory for the Panthers, who are now 4-5 in PAC 8 League play and 13-9 overall.

Pioneer Valley is in the midst of a resurgent season under coach Greg Lanthier. Meanwhile, the Knights continue to sputter along.

St. Joseph, a perennial PAC 8 League title contender, is now 6-3 in league play and 13-9 overall.

On Friday, Pioneer Valley was led by senior point guard DJ Martinez, who scored a game-high 18 points. Taylor Burns added 15 points and sophomore post player Jayden Jones had 11. 

Only two St. Joseph players scored in double-figures: Elihu Cobb and Tevesi Auau scored 10 points apiece. 

Sal Villa added nine points for Pioneer Valley and Mathew Garcia had eight. Burns scored nine of his 15 in the second half.

"The bottom line is that it's fun to win any PAC 8 League game," said Lanthier, who is also the school's athletic director. "That's the reality. The fact that we had never beaten Mission Prep or St. Joseph before was just because of how the schedule fell. But we're starting to play better basketball. We didn't play very well the first five games out of the gate. We have good players and this was a good win, not necessarily because it's St. Joe's, but because it's the PAC 8.

"A win is a win."

The Panthers were up 32-28 at halftime as Steven Fuerte and Martinez each scored seven points to power the Pioneer Valley offense. Jones didn't score at all in the first half. Elijah Brinez led the Knights at the break with eight points, but didn't score in the second half. 

The Panthers used a late barrage of inside scoring to gap the Knights a bit at the end of the third quarter and led 52-42 heading to the fourth. Martinez spun in the lane and hit a floater off the backboard to make it 55-44 with 6:43 remaining. 

But the Knights didn't just give up. The 6-foot-7 Cobb, unquestionably the area's most athletic player, threw down a thunderous put-back dunk over a defender with five minutes left, cutting the Panthers' lead to 57-49. 

With about 40 seconds left in the game, St. Joseph's Steven Vasquez trailed Ortiz as he brought the ball up with the Panthers ahead 68-60. Ortiz dropped a pass off to Vasquez, who drained a 3-pointer from the top of the key to cut the Panthers' lead to five points. 

Sal Villa caught the ensuing inbound pass and was fouled. He would make one free throw. 

On the next trip down, Ortiz scored on a drive and drew a foul, but missed the ensuing free throw to keep the score at 69-65. The Panthers then made enough of their free throws down the stretch to seal the win.

"I think the zone defense helped us slow them down," Lanthier said. "Last time they got loose and got to the rim too often. I think our strength is inside, going to the rim, but we were able to make some outside shots early that changed the complexion of the game. If you don't make those shots they sag down on your post guys and it kind of gets bogged down."

It's a three-game week for all PAC 8 League teams next week. The Panthers next play Monday night at Paso Robles (3-6). The Knights will be at second-place Arroyo Grande (7-3 PAC 8) night then. All league games tip off at 7 p.m.


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