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If the Coconino boys basketball team was tired after a late return from Phoenix the previous night, it didn’t show Tuesday against Bradshaw Mountain as the Panthers cruised to their first region win 65-55.

After coming home with a big win against Metro Tech on Monday, the Panthers (8-2) had a fire in their veins as they warmed up to take on Bradshaw Mountain. With the girls basketball team just ending their game with a win, the gym was packed with fans who were pumped up and ready for more basketball.

“You’ve got to come out and challenge them, challenge their heart, their spirit, and get the lead,” Panthers coach Mike Moran said. “You’ve got to come out of the locker room with a surge of energy always; it’s something we talk about every day.”

The Panthers started off huge with Brett McGowan and Emilio Esquivel scoring a combined 14 points in the first half. Earlier in the season Moran talked about a high-pressure defense, but their offense took control early in the game and the Bears just couldn’t keep up.

Moran credited Esquivel, the senior point guard, for running the offense efficiently.

“When we get ahead he can handle it so well,” Moran said. “We can hold it, we can run, we can do whatever we want with a great point guard like that so he’s one of the reasons why were successful.”

Coming out of halftime, the defense that Moran is so proud of forced turnover after turnover, and before Bradshaw Mountain could see where the ball was, the Panthers had it on their side.

“In the locker room for the second half, we always say to come out hard in the third and that seals the game,” McGowan said.

After having 10 games in less than two weeks, the team is thankful for a day of rest before taking the court again in the Pepsi Holiday Basketball Tournament at Flagstaff High School. The Panthers’ first game is against Faith Lutheran of Las Vegas at 5:30 p.m. Thursday.

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Cody Bashore serves as the beat writer for Northern Arizona University basketball and football in addition to covering high school sports around Flagstaff for the Arizona Daily Sun.

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