Falcons swat away Catamounts
Panther Creek junior forward Nubian Spann might have been seeing those long, outstretched paws of Jordan’s Jared Hendryx in his nightmares Monday night.
He certainly saw them often enough during the Catamounts’ 53-50 loss in the first round of the 4-A Mideast Regional.
Hendryx, the Falcons’ 6-7 senior center, rejected Spann’s shots four times, came up with some huge rebounds when they were most needed and led all Jordan scorers with 16 points.
“Hopefully by now, that’s like normal,” Hendryx said. “That’s my role.”
The Falcons advance to play Wednesday against No. 8 Middle Creek, a 60-54 winner over Pinecrest.
It wasn’t supposed to be that tough for Jordan on Monday night.
“Not at all,” Hendryx said.
The Falcons, ranked No. 25 in the state by MaxPreps, entered the regional as the No. 1 seed against a young Panther Creek squad that was No. 16.
But the Catamounts rocked their hosts for an 18-11 lead after the first period, punctuated by the hot hand of guard Gaqwez Hudson, who scored 10 of his 18 points in the frame. Point guard Juan Munoz, who also scored 18 points for the visitors, drilled six points in the period.
“We just started out slow,” Hendryx said. “It might have been a lack of intensity. Honestly, we played terrible, but we grinded it out at the end.
“We had a lot of turnovers, weren’t playing defense. A lot of times we got back and nobody knew who they were guarding.”
But when Jordan senior guard Darien Ortiz took a fastbreak pass downcourt off a steal and dropped it through the net on a textbook layup at 5:16 of the second period, the Falcons went up 19-18 and never relinquished the lead. Ortiz hit double figures with 10 points, and senior forward K.J. Alston scored 11.
“I think, overall, we went from playing selfish in the first quarter to moving the ball to people,” Hendryx said.
Although Panther Creek outscored Jordan in the second half 25-24, the Cats were unable to overcome a low-scoring second period during which the Falcons had a vital 18-7 point margin.
“We made a lot of mistakes,” Jordan coach Kim Annas said. “We had a lot of turnovers; we did a poor job executing. Fortunately, we responded on defense the second quarter and got us back in the game, and we were able to hold that for the most part.
“Give a lot of credit to Panther Creek. They came in with a great game plan and they played really well, did a lot of good things with the ball.”
But there were some noticeable lapses there, too, and they frequently involved Panther Creek’s Munoz.
Munoz hit a 3-pointer from well behind the key at 3:13 of the final period to draw Panther Creek to 44-43, the closest the game had been since the first period.
On another play, Munoz had two Falcons smothering him as he attempted to drive the lane. Inexplicably, both defenders peeled off, and Munoz made an easy uncontested shot to narrow the score to 48-45 with just 1:44 to play in the game. With time winding down, Munoz hit another 3-pointer to keep it close.
“It gets tougher each step of the way,” Annas said. “Hopefully, the guys will respond and come back.”
Jordan 53, Panther Creek 50
PANTHER CREEK — Gaqwez Hudson 18, Juan Munoz 18, Josh Maciejewski 6, Nubian Spann 5, Darrian Saddler 3.
JORDAN — Jared Hendryx 16, KJ Alston 11, Darien Ortiz 10, Josh Thompson 7, Arthur Reese 5, Mike Lee 2, Marshall Thompson 2.
Records—Jordan 22-4; Panther Creek 10-14.