The Peyton boys’ basketball team may be missing one of its three top scorers, but it mattered little thanks to a strong defensive effort that put away Sargent on Monday.
The Pikes Peak 2A No. 1 Panthers switched to a smaller, defensive lineup to outscore Sargent by 12 in the second half to record a 59-44 victory in Game 2 of the inaugural UCCS Holiday Shootout at the Gallogly Events Center.
“We did the same against (3A) Manitou Springs (a 54-33 win) on Saturday and it paid off for us,” Panthers coach Brian Green said.
That defensive effort, led by the Peyton reserves and role players, freed up seniors Ethan Abello and Jared Watkins to focus on offense, when they touched the ball on every possession. The pair made big baskets to keep Sargent at arm’s length in a nonconference game Peyton never trailed.
“They don’t care if they score two or 10 a night, as long as they get the job done defensively,” Watkins said of the reserves. “They let us do what we do.”
Which is pour in points. Both scored 18, with Watkins hitting two 3-pointers and scoring on some pull-up jumpers while Abello, who struggled from long range at the start, drove to the basket.
“Going to the basket is the best way to get the train started,” Abello said.
Peyton, which returns the core of last season’s 20-4 squad, could be even tougher if junior Chris Epps can return from a broken finger sustained in the season-opening loss to Lutheran of Parker. Epps averaged more than 10 points a game last season,
“We are just trying to hold on until he is back,” Green said.
Sargent (1-3) stayed with Peyton (6-1) through the first half with junior guard Nate Ramirez scoring eight of his team-high 12 points in the second quarter to pull the Farmers within 22-19 at the break.
That was too close for coach Green’s comfort, and the defensive lineup generated more offense in transition with Abello running the floor to record nine of his 18 in the third quarter, including a 3-pointer with 14.1 seconds left that put Peyton ahead 41-32. Abello would record a three-point play off a drive to the basket and subsequent made free throw with 6:50 left in the fourth to make it 44-37. Sargent would get no closer.
“We defended them well but Abello and Watkins got stronger as the game wore on,” Sargent coach Justin Fricke said. “Abello especially hurt us at the end of the third and early in the fourth.”