Panthers Again In Playoffs

by Luis Espinoza, February 24, 2016

It’s Sunday night and the deadline fast approaching. I spent the morning pulling double duty watching the little girl play a game of basketball while waiting with “quiet” anticipation for the 2015 NCS CIF varsity boy’s playoff brackets to be released. After over an hour of waiting, the results were finally announced online via the NFHS website live. At the conclusion of the DIV VI selection, Anderson Valley discovered they had the #2 seed in the playoffs with home field advantage for a while (provided they win of course). While they haven’t played well over the last couple weeks they have managed to win and pulled off some tight games against some tough NCL III teams.

PLAYOFF GAME TIME: AV (#2) meets North Hills Christian (#15) (Vallejo) this Wednesday (Feb 24th) at 7 pm at the Anderson Valley HS gym.

Reviewing the results, the DIV VI playoff bracket is a smorgasbord of teams and well represented by four NCL III teams. The only downside is there are 10 private schools selected. We should see the disparity more evident as the games near the finals. Last year when AV knocked off Oakland Catholic School St Elizabeth to get into the semifinals, they were the only public school remaining in the DIV VI playoffs. The Norcal Championships were the same with AV the sole public school represented. I don’t know what can change but as long as those Panthers boys keep fighting they’ll be happy to be the only one.

A quick recap of the last couple games. On 02/16/16, the AV JV boys, coming off a great win the week earlier against Laytonville traveled to PA with the hopes of sharing the JV League title. Laytonville had finished their season a week earlier and with only one loss under their belt, AV needed to beat PA to be co-champions. They had split earlier season meetings (1-1) and needed to have a great game to come out with a win. The first quarter started out even with PA taking the lead 14-13. In the second quarter, during a loose ball, guard Isaac Sanchez took an inadvertent head shot and was knocked out of the game. Isaac had been an anchor for the team and his loss would be felt later on. AV continued to keep pace with the smaller sized Pirates finishing the first half down 30-32.

The third quarter AV kept up the momentum and managed to take a 2 point lead with a 14 point quarter. AV 44-PA 42. Then came the 4th. In AV, the Panthers managed to have a 25 point quarter. Who would believe PA came to pay them back dropping 4 3’s in a 25-14 PA 4th quarter. PA kept the lead and AV could not get going again. Final Score PA 67- AV 59.

The officials were surprisingly tight during the game causing both teams to go to the line repeatedly. When the dust settled I had an opportunity to review the book and like Coach Espinoza stresses, free throws will win or lose you games. AV shot 15-29 from the charity stripe while PA went 7-13. It was AV’s game to win. In the end the Panthers fought hard and it’s a great opportunity for them learn from their mistakes. I’ll write more about the JV’s at the end of the season. Congratulations to League Champion Laytonville Warriors JV Boys on a great season. Final AV JV League record 8-2

AV Varsity Boys took their 10-0 record to Point Arena to take on a scrappy Pirate team who had nothing to lose on their final home game of the year. The game was never really that close. AV came out to take early lead 13-5 in the first and never looked back. Going into halftime AV maintained a ten point lead. 30-20 AV. The third quarter AV increased their lead slightly: 41-26. When the dust settled and AV secure in a 11-0 league record AV walked away with a 62-47 point win.

On 02/28/16, Senior Night and the final regular season home game of the year, the Geyserville Bronchos came to town. Knowing the Bronchos have had a rough season, AV didn’t want to kick a team while they were down. With a final score of 63-26, all of the Panthers were able to get some time in and every single one of them was able to put points on the board. This team is stacked with Seniors this year though, so honoring all of them before the game was truly memorable. Joshua Chavez, Jared Johnston, Erin Perez, Cesar Soto, Abraham Sanchez, Will Lemons and Izac Parra will all leave us this year with a legacy that will be talked about for years to come. A 2nd consecutive NCL III championship, undefeated in league competition (12-0) and a #2 seed in NCS playoff tournament are just some of the things we can be proud of them for accomplishing.

Nearing the end of the game, an emotional “changing of the guard” allowed the younger players to sub in for the Seniors one by one. As each Senior walked off the floor not knowing if this would be their final game on the brown and gold court, they were applauded and cheered for the contributions they made to this school, their community and most importantly their peers and teammates. As the younger Panthers took center stage, the seven young men sat quietly enjoying the sights with the hope they could do this at least one more time. I know I’ve enjoyed every moment of basketball with these kids and based on what I know of them, the basketball season is far from over.

I hope to see all the Panthers fans out there to cheer these young men on. Keep up with scores with AVA online, a win will have a second home game for the Panthers at AVHS on Saturday. Until the next one…

Final regular season record: AV Overall 19-5, League 12-0. Div VI record: 14-0. 5-5 against higher division teams.

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