By Raymundo Frasquillo
DUNCAN – The Duncan Wildkats erased a 22-23 halftime deficit with a blistering 35-17 second-half, to win its 2017 season opener 57-40 over the New Mexico Animas Panthers on Nov. 22.
The Wildkats used an 11-0 run in the final 2:01 to pull away from a 46-40 advantage, connecting on 4-5 field goal attempts plus 3-8 free throws compared to 0-6 plus 0-4, respectively, for the visitors. Duncan also had a 6-3 rebounding advantage and committed one fewer turnover in the same span. Seniors Christopher Corona and Samuel Lacey added four points each, while sophomore Wesley Conyer chipped in three before picking up his fifth personal foul with 19 seconds left in the game.
“I didn’t think it would be that close,” Duncan head coach Eldon Merrell said.
After starting with three ties, Duncan went on an 8-2 run to take a 14-8 advantage into the second period.
Animas came back to tie 19-19 with 2:08 left in the first half, before finishing with a 4-3 edge to take a slight lead into the locker room at halftime.
Duncan tied the score at 28-28 on senior Nathan Jones’ basket with 2:45 elapsed in the third period and a Corona field goal 21 seconds later gave the hosts the lead for good. The final eight minutes opened with the home team sporting a 39-32 advantage.
The Wildkats led by as much as 10 points, 44-34, 1:37 into the fourth period before the Panthers took the next 3:31 to cut the deficit to six points, 46-40, with 2:52 left to play.
Duncan made 23 field goals (two 3-pointers) plus 9-28 free throws compared to 15 field goals (one 3-pointer) plus 9-23 from the line for Animas.
Corona finished with a game-high 25 points and Lacey totaled 10 points while going just 2-11 from the free throw line. Jones had eight points, junior Braden Basteen and Conyer each had five and sophomore Michael Lennon four.
Job Sarellano paced the visitors with 10 points on three field goals plus 4-10 free throws. Tall Swift added nine points, Ty Wagley six, Trey Pompeo and Rayce Wagley each had five, Oscar Urea three and Jimmy Moreno two.
Duncan travels to Superior Tuesday (Nov. 29) and is at Winkelman Hayden on Dec. 6 before hosting North Phoenix Prep on Dec. 10.
The Wildkats visit Fort Thomas Dec. 13, host Willcox Dec. 16, and close out the month in Thatcher for the three-day (Dec. 19-21) 54th Eastern Arizona Holiday Tourney.