Good Panthers, Bad Panthers

New/old coach Mark Skelton says Rangely boys need consistency
RANGELY — After a 3-2 start to the season, it’s safe to say Rangely High School’s boys’ basketball team has experienced mixed results.
“We’ve had moments of brilliance, and other times we don’t have a clue,” said Coach Mark Skelton.
That inconsistency may be expected, given the Panthers are learning a new way of doing things.
“We have some pretty good athletes,” said Skelton, who is back for his third go-round as coach. “But they have to buy into our system, which is different from what they played in the past.”
Not that the Panthers weren’t successful last season.
“They were like 14-7 last year and got beat at districts for a chance to go to regionals,” Skelton said. “But we lost about four or five kids to graduation.”
Skelton is still getting to know his team. He took over as coach after the job came open in October. It was a role he was familiar with, having coached the Panthers during two previous stints, first in the early 1990s and again in the early 2000s.
“I forgot what it’s like when you start over with a program,” Skelton said. “It’s tough. When you come in with your own ideas, kids have to buy into that.”
In the early 2000s, when his sons Greg and Brian were playing, the Panthers consistently produced winning teams.
“We went to state three times out of the four years they were playing,” Skelton said.
He’s hoping to return the program to where the Panthers are competing for a state berth, year in and year out.
“What we did before worked,” he said. “It got us to state several times.”
Skelton is using primarily eight players on the varsity. They are: seniors Kanden Brady, Roman Chavez, James Herrera, Blake Mecham and Michael Morton, and juniors Adam Dahl, Mark Perzinski and Patrick Phelan.
Skelton says the Panthers are showing signs of coming together as a team.
“Patrick is probably averaging about 20 points a game, and Michael Morton has been coming on,” Skelton said. “But we’ve been trying to spread around the scoring. That’s our goal. We’ve had three games where we’ve had three kids in double digits and one game we had four. To me, that’s a much better way to have it.”
Rangely will begin Western Slope League play Saturday at South Routt County.
“Anybody we play now will be a league game,” Skelton said, adding the league will be highly competitive.
“It’s pretty tough,” he said. “Meeker looks like, definitely, the front runner. We’ve already played Hayden twice and split with them, and it’s one of the better Hayden teams I’ve seen in quite awhile. I have a hunch (the league) will be pretty even. It all depends on how well you put your puzzle together.”
For the Panthers, Skelton hopes the pieces will come together in time for league play.
“We have to make them believe in the system and put that to effect in games,” Skelton said. “The kids have the ability. But it takes that thing called heart.”