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ALBUQUERQUE — The Piedra Vista boys basketball team had its share of struggles in its 64-40 loss to Volcano Vista tonight, but the Panthers continue to show improvement.

Through the first portion of the season, PV stumbled while trying to adjust to its new offense. But in recent weeks the Panthers have started to put things together.

"At first, we were having some jitters with the new coach, but we're starting to figure out what we're supposed to do with our offense and our defense," PV junior Jarrett Graham said. "We've come together as a team more."

PV coach Devon Manning echoed Graham's belief that the Panthers have a better grasp on his system.

"I think we've grown up. Some of the guys still get a little deer eyed when they get out there, but the growth and their understanding of what we're trying to do is a lot better," Manning said. "We got good looks tonight. It's just a matter of knocking them down."

The Panthers (8-11, 0-2 District 1-6A) started well against the Hawks (13-6, 3-0), holding a slight lead through the first few minutes. But fouls against the Panthers began to pile up and VV took advantage when PV needed to go to its bench, switching to a full-court press that created turnovers for easy layups.

"We got into foul trouble and had to go to our bench, and they're still young guys," Manning said. "The fight's there, and the effort is there, we just have to clean up the things we can control."

Behind their press, the Hawks took a 30-18 lead into halftime.

The Hawks started the third quarter on a 6-0 run, but the Panthers didn't roll over, answering with a 7-0 run of their own.

"We can play with these teams, but we have to play a pretty solid game every time," Manning said. "We'd miss a layup, and they'd go down and get a layup. Or we'd hold them to a tough shot, but they'd get the offensive rebound and put back. After we cut it to 11, I think they got 10 straight points that came off of second chances."

The Panthers couldn't keep the momentum going, and the Hawks outscored them 11-3 in the final couple of minutes of the third period to take a 47-28 lead into the fourth before cruising to the victory.

Brady Brown, Christian Chavez and Graham finished with 8 points each to pace the Panthers.

PV will close out its two-game weekend road swing by playing at Cleveland (15-5, 2-0) Saturday.

"We definitely have to keep them off the boards. We have to get on their legs and come out firing," Graham said of the Cleveland matchup. "We've been terrible in the first quarter, except for tonight, so when we can do that, things will be a little bit better."

Karl Schneider is the sports editor for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4648.

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