SHERIDAN — The Arvada-Clearmont boys basketball team has struggled this season. The wins for the Panthers have come few and far between, and lopsided scores have characterized many of their losses.
Thursday at Normative Services, Inc. provided AC with a golden opportunity to get back in the win column as the Wolves and Panthers played a tight game a couple weeks ago in Clearmont.
The Panthers’ craving to win, however, may have actually hurt them.
“Our boys wanted it,” AC head coach Ross Walker said. “They wanted to go play, and they wanted to play well. I think they wanted it so much that they started to force things and not let the game come to them.”
The Wolves turned a one-possession game midway through the third quarter into a 59-45 win, and the loss dropped the Panthers to 3-15 overall and 0-6 in conference play.
“We couldn’t quite play hard and relaxed,” Walker said. “We played hard and tight. It wasn’t a lack of want-to.”
NSI’s full-court press gave AC problems most of the night. The Panthers had trouble staying out of double-team situations and overall lacked poise with the basketball. Walker remains in a quest to find a primary ball handler, and that factored into the struggles bringing the ball up the floor Thursday.
“It took us a while to figure out how to break that press,” AC’s Clayton Auzqui said.
Auzqui, who ideally would play off the ball and in the paint, brought the ball up the floor a lot Thursday. As a result, he led the Panthers with 19 points, while teammate Tanner Klatt added 14 points.
However, Klatt, who has paced the Panthers in numerous games this season, appeared flustered for most of Thursday’s action.
“I think it was him just trying to force some shots,” Walker said. “NSI also has some athletic kids, and I don’t know if that changed it or not. He was just trying to do too much instead of just trying to play comfortable.”
AC opened the second half on an 8-2 run that pulled the Panthers to within three at 27-24 with 4:39 to play in the third period. The Wolves, with some solid guard play, created some distance and led 40-30 ahead of the fourth quarter.
The Panthers kept the game within single digits for most of the final eight minutes. Auzqui tallied seven straight points, the last of which was a 3-pointer with 1:47 left that pulled AC to within 50-44.
The Panthers tried to play the foul game in the final 90 seconds, but Normative Services made seven of its final eight free-throw attempts to salt the game away.
AC poured in seven of the game’s first nine points to own the early lead, but the Wolves closed the opening quarter on a 7-1 spurt to make it a 11-10 contest.
Normative Services carried its momentum into the second period, scoring the first eight points, and led 18-11 with 5:40 to play in the half.
“They hit three shots, and our boys kind of let off a little bit,” Walker said.
An Auzqui 3-pointer, plus another field goal, represented the Panthers’ only points of the second stanza as they fell behind 25-16 at halftime.
AC hosts Hulett Feb. 16 at 6 p.m. The Red Devils have beaten AC twice this season — 64-27 Dec. 9 in nonconference action and then again 82-56 Jan. 20 in the two teams’ conference opener.
The Arvada-Clearmont girls basketball team didn’t play Normative Services as originally scheduled. An illness inflicted a majority of the Lady Wolves, and as a result, the Lady Panthers won via forfeit.
The AC girls host Hulett Feb. 16 at 3 p.m. AC rallied for an overtime 43-38 win over the Red Devils Jan. 20 in the two teams’ conference opener. Next week’s game will represent the rubber match as Hulett edged AC 48-41 in nonconference action Dec. 9.
Arvada-Clearmont……11 5 14 15 — 45
Normative Services….10 15 15 19 — 59
Arvada-Clearmont — Auzqui 19, Klatt 14, Briscoe 5, Malli 5, Beam 2
Normative Services — Not reported