Palo Verde boys rally past Western

Palo Verde’s boys basketball team sat in the locker room for 10 minutes thinking about how it trailed Western at halftime. The Panthers spent the next three minutes regaining the lead.

Palo Verde’s Drew Topham scored six points in the first three minutes of the second half, sparking a 13-4 run to help the Panthers beat the visiting Warriors 64-47 in the Sunset Region quarterfinals on Tuesday.

Topham, who finished with 14 points and 10 rebounds, was held to four points in the first half.

“Drew (Topham) did a great job in the second half of stepping up,” Panthers coach Jerome Riley said. “He got some big boards and he worked for position. He’s battled all year and we expect that from him.”

The Warriors opened the second quarter with a 14-2 run fueled by Ehbert Talice, who scored 10 of his 14 points in the first half.

Western forced eight turnovers and held Palo Verde to three third-quarter field goals to take a 26-22 lead at halftime.

“I was surprised; Western came out and played hard,” Palo Verde’s Moses Morgan said. “But we can’t come out like that, especially against teams we should beat.”

Said Riley: “We came out and we weren’t defending. Guys were getting by us, and our help wasn’t there to take charges.”

But after the halftime pep talk, the Panthers were able to regain their composure.

Morgan hit a 3-point basket 30 seconds into the third quarter. A minute later Davion Pearson fed Topham in the low post for his first points of the second half.

“A lot of (getting the lead) was because of good passes by our guards,” Topham said. “They got the ball in there after I got good position, and we were able to score.”

Pearson finished with 14 points and nine assists.

Western’s Johnnie Diggs made a three-point play to bring the Warriors within one point with a minute left in the third quarter. But Palo Verde’s defense adjusted and held Western without a field goal for the next five minutes.

Diggs was held to nine points, and Western’s Melvin Washington, who had averaged 8.6 points, was held scoreless.

“(Western’s) a tough team, but that’s what we like. We’re a tough team also,” Topham said.

The Panthers will face Durango on Thursday in the Sunset semifinals, but Palo Verde already has adopted a saying that looks past its next game.

“We have a motto: Five straight to win state,” Morgan said.