“We eat Wolves!”- the Benicia High student section phrase that was chanted on route to the Panther’s 51-44 victory against rival American Canyon. Benicia and the American Canyon Wolves went back and forth the entire game in a packed gym with each school’s student section in full force.
The Panthers started the game by going up 9-0, forcing AC to call a timeout to regroup. Benicia’s defense was solid throughout the first 2 quarters, giving up only 15 points. They went into halftime with an 11 point lead and control of the game.
But the Wolves came out strong in the 3rd quarter, outscoring the Panthers 19-11. Malik Ghiden and Gamon Howard helped AC get back in the game, hitting big shots and getting offensive rebounds that led to second chance points. Benicia’s Trey Pugh led the Panthers in the 3rd by scoring 7 points.
In the 4th quarter, the Wolves started putting more pressure on Pugh, and Benicia needed someone else to step up on offensive. The Panther’s got the spark they needed from Jason Shelley and Dylan Bandle. They each scored 4 clutch points by driving to the basket in halfcourt sets and fast breaks. Late in the quarter, American Canyon was forced to play the foul game, and Pugh made the free throws to seal the victory.
“It feels amazing to beat our rival,” said Shelley. “It’s really the best feeling.”
Pugh was the biggest contributor for the Panthers, as he filled the stat sheet with 24 points. Shelley and Sophomore John Lee finished with 6 points, while Junior Steve Urias tallied 5 points. Senior Dean Cuffee played stellar defense all night, holding American Canyon’s Randy Valdez to 0 points the entire game.
The Panther’s next game is on Saturday, January 30th against cross town rival St. Patrick-St.Vincent High School. There will be a blue and gold student section, so come support your Panthers!
By Nick Cillo
Photo: Gavin Socorro