The Parker Broncs’ varsity boys’ basketball team dropped below .500 against their 2A West rivals with a 61-53 loss to the Arizona Lutheran Coyotes Jan. 21 in Parker. This was a game where the score only tells a part of the story. At one point early in the game, the Broncs had a 16-point lead. The Coyotes bore down and gradually chipped away at the lead until they took the lead themselves.

“It was just a really tough regional loss for us,” Coach Rolland Hansen said later. “After a great start, we made a series of defensive mistakes which allowed them to get back in the game. After we got back in control in the second half, ALA out shot us from outside to take the win.”

The Broncs pulled out in front with a 24-8 lead after the first quarter. They were grabbing rebound after rebound as the Coyotes missed their shots. They were also helped by Josh Openshaw hitting five of six free throw attempts.

The Coyotes spend the second quarter gradually catching up with the Broncs. When the Broncs called time with 3:20 left in the quarter, their lead was down to 29-20. With 1:30 left, it was 31-26. By half-time, the Broncs led by just 4 points, 33-29.

Just 20 seconds into the second half, a three-pointer cut the Broncs’ lead to one point, 33-32. With 6:25 left, they tied it at 37-37 on another three-pointer. With six minutes left, Arizona Lutheran took its first lead of the game, 39-37. Another three-pointer made it Arizona Lutheran 42, Parker 37 with five minutes left in the third quarter.

The Broncs put on a spurt at the end of the third quarter, and, going into the final quarter, it was all tied at 46-46.

The game was close through the fourth quarter, with the Coyotes ahead, 56-53, with just 1:30 left. Arizona Lutheran put on a spurt of their own, and finished the game with a 61-53 win.

Openshaw led the Broncs with 17 points. After making five of six free throws in the first quarter, he made just four of eight for the rest of the game. Jason Rodriguez had 11 and Genaro Lopez added 10 in his first varsity start. Lopez also grabbed 7 rebounds and made 4 steals. Leo Scott Jr. scored 9, and Eric Poolaw had 6.

Hansen noted the Broncs are still a young team and they’re growing as they move along.

“It’s just another hurdle created in our region for this young team,” he said of the loss. “I believe they are ready for the challenge.”

The Broncs are now 1-2 in the 2A West, 4-2 against other 2A teams, and 6-5 overall. They are in fourth place in the 2A West. They ranked 19th in the state in Arizona Interscholastic Association power points.

Parker has two more games this week, both on the road. They’ll face the Trivium Prep Crimson Knights Friday, Jan. 24. As of Jan. 22, the Crimson Knights are 2-0 in the 2A West, which puts them in first place. They are 7-2 against other 2A teams and 8-2 overall. They are ranked No. 3 in AIA power points.

They’ll face another tough 2A opponent when they play the Phoenix Country Day School Eagles Jan. 25 in a rare Saturday game. The Eagles are 1-0 in the 2A Metro, 7-1 against other 2A teams, and 8-2 overall. They’re ranked 5th in AIA power points.

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