The third-ranked Fowler High School boys basketball team had a bit of a slow start as it resumed the season by hosting John Mall Saturday at Grizzly Gym.

The Grizzlies trailed the Panthers 7-2 early in the game. However, once Fowler found its rhythm, the Grizzlies went on to cruise to a 70-23 win.

"It's not always going to be the emotional start you wanted," said Fowler coach Mark Lowther. "But once we changed defenses up a little bit, the kids picked it up and got some steals and some easy buckets like we thought we could."

Jaziah Sandoval gave the Panthers the early lead with a layup, but Val Leone tied the score with a pair of free throws. Sandoval then drained a 3-point basket and drove for another layup to give John Mall a 7-2 edge.

The Panthers' lead would not last for long. Jackson Bates started the run by splitting at the line, and then Leone and Erick Hernandez both scored to tie the score. Bates then hit a trey, and Luke Bitter split at the charity stripe to give the Grizzlies an 11-7 lead at the end of the first quarter.

Fowler continued its run well into the second quarter as it scored the period's first 19 points. Leone scored nine of the points, Gabriel Proctor scored five, Jackson Bates three, and Johnathan Mobbley two.

D.J. Montoya ended the run with a jumper, but Leone scored four more points and Proctor two as the Grizzlies increased the lead to 36-9 midway through the quarter.

Sandoval scored four points and Tyler Aguirre three as John Mall closed the deficit to 36-16. However, Bryant Manchego knocked down a jumper, and Liam Griffy buried a three to give Fowler a 41-16 advantage at halftime.

The Grizzlies scored the first seven points of the third quarter with Proctor and Leone both swishing 3-pointers. Dylan DiMatteo accounted for John Mall's first points of the second half, but Fowler answered by scoring 11 unanswered points for a 59-18 lead.

Sandoval made a layup and added a free throw to help the Panthers reduce the margin to 59-21. But Proctor scored two straight baskets to give the Grizzlies a 63-23 advantage after the third quarter.

The fourth quarter was played under a running clock and Fowler scored seven points in the final frame while holding John Mall scoreless.

Three Grizzlies scored in double figures. Leone led the way with 24 points, followed by Proctor with 16 and Jackson Bates with 10.

Sandoval led John Mall with 14 points.

Fowler (5-2, 2-0 Santa Fe League) will host sixth-ranked Holly on Saturday.

"We talked about that it starts with a new season, and they're probably going to be one of the top two teams on their side of the league," Lowther said. "So it's a very important game for us in seeing them only one time."

The first game will begin at 2 p.m.

Fowler 70, John Mall 23

John Mall — DiMatteo 1 0-0 2, S. Bobian 0 0-0 0, Montoya 1 0-0 2, Aguirre 1 0-0 3, Sandoval 6 1-4 14, V. Bobian 0 0-0 0, Barela 0 0-0 0, J. Bobian 1 0-0 2, Loreto 0 0-0 0. Total 10 1-4 23.

3-point goals — Aguirre 1, Sandoval 1.

Fowler — Bitter 0 1-6 1, Proctor 6 3-4 16, J. Bates 3 1-2 10, Leone 10 2-2 24, Mobbley 3 1-2 7, Milberger 1 0-0 2, Griffy 1 0-0 3, Hernandez 1 0-0 2, J. Manchego 0 0-0 0, B. Bates 1 0-0 2, B. Manchego 1 1-2 3. Total 27 9-18 70.

3-point goals — J. Bates 3, Leone 2, Griffy 1, Proctor 1.

John Mall 7 9 7 0 — 23

Fowler 11 30 22 7 — 70

Fouls — John Mall 15, Fowler 9.

khamrick@ljtdmail.com