The Panther Creek boys basketball team ended its season, as well as the careers of one of its most decorated players, with a 57-52 loss at Fayetteville’s Seventy-First High on Tuesday night in the first round of the N.C. High School Athletic Association playoffs.
Juan Munoz had 10 points in his final game at Panther Creek. He ends his career his more than 1,680 points, good for either first or second in school history.
The point guard, who led his team to the playoffs all four years, is heading to Longwood University next fall.
“Juan has been great for Panther Creek. He’s a model student; he’s great with his teammates,” Panther Creek coach Shawan Robinson said. “It’s going to hurt to lose him because there were times when you just put the ball in his hands and let him make a play. We’ll miss that.”
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“He’ll be a lifelong little brother – I’m too young to say he’s like a son.”
Panther Creek, the 27th overall seed in the 4A East bracket, led 15-12 after the first quarter but fell behind 31-26 at halftime as Seventy-First, the No. 6 seed and champions of the Mid-South Conference, got points off turnovers.
When the Catamounts handled the pressure well, they scored. When they didn’t, Seventy-First (20-5) made them pay.
It felt like Panther Creek (13-14) had one last push, but when an and-1 make was wiped off the board on a traveling violation, it sealed the deal.
“We took good shots down that stretch,” Robinson said. “I think (Seventy-First) went down and scored after that, and that was a five-point swing.”
Even with Munoz’s departure, the future is bright at PC.
Tyler Smith had a game-high 15 point for the Catamounts, and his continued improvement will be a bright spot for next year when he’s a junior. Fellow sophomore Riley Adams had 12 and freshman Justin McKoy had 10 to go with a team-high eight rebounds.
“We’ve got a bunch of resilient guys who never quit,” Robinson said. “We were a little too up-and-down but I believe we built a foundation, as far as routines and watch to expect, that we can hopefully only get better.”