A win on the road against a quality opponent to start the season would leave most coaches with a big grin.
Foothill boys basketball coach Kevin Soares didn’t come off the court with a scowl Tuesday night, but he wasn’t jumping for joy, either.
The Falcons led by 21 points in the third quarter before holding on for an 83-74 road win over Palo Verde.
“It’s good for the kids,” Soares said of the season-opening win. “It gives them a little confidence going into the next game. But there’s some things that we’ve got to learn to put teams away.”
One of those things is cutting down on turnovers, especially in the second half.
Foothill didn’t turn the ball over in the second quarter, and the Falcons took advantage of 16 first-half turnovers by the Panthers to build the lead.
But the team didn’t do as good a job in the second half, turning the ball over 13 times.
“We played a lot of sophomores and juniors last year, and now we expect them to be more careful and value the basketball a little bit more, and we didn’t do that in the second half,” Soares said.
The Falcons took a 56-35 lead on a bucket by Jalen Shepard with 5:22 to go in the third quarter. But Palo Verde came storming back, pulling within 62-53 after three quarters.
Palo Verde got within six after a rebound basket by Jordyn Martin with 3:04 to play that cut the lead to 76-70. But Michael Buchanan missed a follow layup on Palo Verde’s next possession, and that was as close as the Panthers would get.
Junior guard Brannon Cressanto had nine of his team-high 18 points in the fourth quarter for Foothill, and senior guard Greg Cox had seven of his 12 points in the final quarter.
“They should (do that),” Soares said. “To be honest, they need to do a better job of taking care of the ball. These guys are both three-year starters on the varsity. They should know better than to turn the ball over down the stretch.”
Darren Buckles had 13 points, Austin Starr came off the bench to score 12 and Tyler Roberts added 10 points for Foothill.
Starr wasn’t the only bench player to produce for the Falcons. Gary Reed, the seventh reserve off the bench Tuesday, scored seven points in about a minute in the second quarter to spark a 9-3 run that gave Foothill a 21-16 lead.
“All those kids show up every day and they work hard every day, and they’re capable of doing something,” Soares said of his bench.
Nahjee Matlock had 20 points to lead Palo Verde. Martin added 15 points, 12 rebounds, five steals and three blocked shots, and Eris Winder scored 15 for the Panthers.