7th and 8th Grade Boys Basketball Teams Win Peaks League Championships Again!!
By Coach Peters:
The Lake County 7th and 8th grade boys’ basketball teams traveled to Eagle County on December 2 to defend the championships that were won last year. The Peaks league trophies were the spoils to be gained for the victors. The Peaks league is comprised of the 9 middle schools in Lake, Summit, and Eagle counties. The 8th graders finished the regular season with a 7-1 league record, which earned them the 2 seed in the league’s single elimination tournament.
The 8th grade Panthers began their title defense by playing the 7 seed Eagle County Charter Academy (ECCA) Hawks. Earlier in the season, Lake County handily defeated ECCA. The Hawks proved to be a much improved team, only trailing 15-17 at the half. Eventually, the Panthers were able to pull away from the Hawks, earning a 34-21 win. Steve Valdez was the only Panther to score double digits, with 11 points. The Panthers earned the win, but they knew they would need to play better to take home the trophy at the end of the day.
The Panthers’ second game paired them against the 3 seed Homestake Peak Falcons. This matchup was exactly the one Panthers desired, as they had an opportunity to avenge their only league loss. In that loss, which was the first game of the year, the Panthers lost due to numerous mental mistakes. The team then made a goal throughout the year to work on the mental aspect of the game, particularly staying cool under pressure. In this game, the Homestake Peak team used their full court press to create a lot of pressure and chaos. Their press defense was effective through the first 1½ quarters. Eventually, Lake County made adjustments, allowing the Panthers to consistently break the Falcon press, which lead to quality scoring opportunities. Toward the end of the second quarter, a worn down Homestake Peak team had to resort to fouling the surging Lake County team. In this pivotal moment, with the game still in the balance, Jair Carreon-Soto calmly made 6 of 8 free throws to create some breathing room for the Panthers. These clutch shots gave the Panthers a 25-14 halftime edge. The game was blown open in the 3rd quarter and Lake County ended with a 49-30 victory. The Panthers were led in scoring by Valdez and Ivan Hinojos, each netting 12. Brandon Gaines and Carreon-Soto chipped in 10 and 8, respectively.
The Peaks league championship game paired 1 seed St. Clare Mustangs versus Lake County. The teams were well acquainted, as they had played just 2 nights earlier. In that game, Lake County won a close contest. The finale was no different. The Panthers started great, with Valdez throwing a beautiful assist to Hinojos off a set play to open the scoring. Lake County’s defense was exceptional in the first half, limiting the Mustangs to only 10 points. St. Clare closed the gap in the 4th quarter enough to make the game interesting. They were forced to foul down the stretch, hoping the Panthers would missed their foul shots and give the Mustangs a chance. Thankfully for the Panthers, Valdez was clutch down the stretching, making 7 of 9 free throws. This clinched the championship for Lake County with a final score of 39-27. Gaines led the Panthers with 13 points and Valdez contributed 12. Overall, the Lake County 8th graders finished the season with a 19-4 record. This includes both A and B teams.
The 7th grade team also won the Peaks league championship in dramatic fashion under the coaching of Jonas Medina.