PEYTON • Calhan’s furious third-quarter rally woke up Peyton. More importantly, it woke up Ethan Abello.
The Peyton forward scored 17 of his game-high 31 points to lead the Panthers past Calhan 86-70 at Peyton High School on Saturday in a game that was much closer than the score indicates.
Abello scored 11 consecutive points to start the fourth, punctuated by a 3-point play and a 3-pointer on back-to-possessions, putting the Panthers (8-2, 1-0 2A Black Forest) ahead for good.
“(Abello) is such a special player,” Peyton coach Brian Green said. “He can struggle the whole game, yet he’ll find a way to tighten the cinch on the saddle and put the team on his back.”
Calhan (6-4, 1-1) made a fantastic rally. Trailing by as many as 16 in the second quarter, the Bulldogs chipped away before the break and went on a 16-4 run to open the third, grabbing a 45-40 lead on Jack Norris’ three-point play with 3:50 left in the third.
But the Panthers scored 11 of the next 15 points, including a three-point play by Abello on a great continuation move to score the basket. When the fourth quarter opened, it was all Abello.
“We just came alive, turned up the intensity, started controlling the game more,” Abello said. “In the beginning of the game I started out a little slow. They were playing good defense. They lightened up a little bit. I took that as my chance.”
With Jared Watkins (11.2 ppg) out for at least the next month with an injury, the Panthers needed to find more scoring. They turned to a bevy of players — with four seeing their first varsity action, including two freshmen. Eight players scored, with Chris Epps scoring 17 and Kyle Gowen 14.
Both teams found themselves in foul trouble, but Peyton proved to have the deeper bench. After the furious rally for the Bulldogs, Calhan coach Rick Carothers had a number of players dealing with fouls.
“I thought foul trouble just killed us,” Carothers said. “I had to sit my best kids on the bench.”
Despite playing with four fouls, Jack Norris led the Bulldogs with 20 points, keeping Calhan in it through three quarters.
“It was good, but you can’t stop there,” Norris said. “You can’t just settle with it, you got to keep going, but we knew that wasn’t the last of it.”