Peoria’s defensive effort and transition offense led the Panthers to a 83-57 road victory over Desert Edge in 4A basketball on Tuesday night.
The Panthers came out strong on the defensive end from the opening tip. They poked the ball away from dribblers, deflected passes and effectively double-teamed ball handlers, all of which led to transition buckets and easier offensive opportunities on the other end.
And, when the Scorpions did make it to the rim, they had Panther junior forward Kevin Kogbara waiting at the basket to block shots.
“Defense is what wins us games, so us playing that way as a team and taking all those possessions away boosts us as a team,” said Kogbara.
While Kogbara and the other wings were solid in blocking or affecting shots at the rim, freshman guard Andrew Camacho notched several charges against the Scorpions, including four in the first half.
“He’s a specimen,” coach Patrick Battillo said of Camacho.
“To be able to read as a freshman that varsity pace at that level, that speaks volumes to the athlete that he is.”
The Panthers took a double-digit lead in the second quarter and cruised in the second half with a game plan that both frustrated and frazzled the Scorpions on the offensive end.
Desert Edge got within 12 points of the Panthers from a short scoring run. But, the Panthers turned back on the gas and the lead never fell under double digits.
The dominant victory somewhat avenges a 67-62 victory against these same Scorpions on Jan. 16 that Peoria believes it should have won by more.
“The players were locked in. We executed much better, we played to our game plan, and we had much better preparation,” Battillo said.
Peoria (21-3) is the winner of ten consecutive games, with its last loss coming in December. Even still, the Panthers believe there is plenty of room to grow.
“We’re not playing at our best right now, but if we get to our potential, we’re going to be scary,” Kogbara said.
The Panthers did suffer a minor injury, as Kogbara spent the majority of the fourth quarter with his right thumb wrapped after slamming a fast-break dunk. However, he believes the pain will subside quickly.
“I’ll be fine,” Kogbara said with a smile, “I just dunked it too hard.”
The Panthers play on the road at Coconino on Friday, before closing out the regular season against Cactus on Feb. 11.