RANGELY I With a win over Meeker (70-58) last Friday and Meeker beating West Grand last Saturday, the Rangely Panthers won a tie-breaker to be the No. 3 seed in the Northwest League and hosted Vail Mountain Tuesday, in the first round of the District 5 tournament. Rangely had a chance at the No. 2 seed but lost to Paonia last Saturday.
By bobby email@example.comRANGELY I With a win over Meeker (70-58) last Friday and Meeker beating West Grand last Saturday, the Rangely Panthers won a tie-breaker to be the No. 3 seed in the Northwest League and hosted Vail Mountain Tuesday, in the first round of the District 5 tournament. Rangely had a chance at the No. 2 seed but lost to Paonia last Saturday.The Panthers found themselves behind 13-20 after the first quarter against Meeker but came back in the second quarter to lead 31-26 at halftime.“The first quarter wasn’t our best and it seems like it’s been that way all year,” Panther head coach Eric Hejl said. “Thankfully in the second quarter, we really started to do some good things defensively and that gave our offense a chance to finally start clicking.”Kody Denny hit a three-pointer in the first quarter and two more in the second, along with another basket, while brother Kacey Denny added four in the second. Senior Caleb Templeton scored five in the first and six in the second.“We’re a team that thrives off of momentum and late in the first half, we were able to build up a head of steam that was topped off by Kody hitting a 30-footer as the halftime buzzer sounded,” Hejl said. “We knew we still had to come out swinging in the second half if we wanted to avoid one of those momentum shifts that can often happen after halftime.”The third quarter saw both teams scoring 16 points, allowing Rangely to keep their five-point lead going into the final eight minutes.“To beat good teams like Meeker you have to have guys step up in crucial moments and we had several guys up to the task,” Hejl said. “Every time Meeker started a run in the second half we had someone hit a big shot in response. Caleb was steady as usual but guys like Chaz (Byerly), Kody, Kacey and Connor (Phelan), all hit critical shots to make sure a Meeker rally never snowballed into something we couldn’t stop.”Hejl also commented on the play of freshman Cameron Enterline, who ended up fouling out late in the fourth quarter.“I couldn’t have been prouder of his effort,” Hejl said of the freshman. “It takes a lot of guts to go into the post as a freshman and bang around with kids like (Ryan) Wix, that are so strong and physical inside. He’s been doing great ever since we’ve been giving him those tough inside assignments.”The Panthers outscored the Cowboys 23-16 in the final quarter to seal victory. Templeton led all scorers with 22 points, with Kody Denny finishing one point behind and brother Kacey also finished in double figures with 10.“It’s been a while since we’ve beaten Meeker and a lot of people didn’t think this year would be any different but I’ve known from day one the talent is there, as long as we could get our guys to buy into playing the right way,” Hejl said.The Panthers beat Paonia earlier in the season in a non-league game and had a chance at becoming the No. 2 seed with another win over the Eagles but they lost 51-63.“I knew there was a chance to have a bit of an emotional letdown after such an intense, hard fought game the night before and unfortunately, that’s exactly what happened,” Hejl said. “They put a lot more pressure on the ball early and forced us into a lot of poor decisions and turnovers,” Hejl said. The Panthers fell behind 9-17 after the first quarter and although Rangely scored 14 in the second quarter, Paonia scored 18 and led 35-23 at the half.Rangely kept pace with the Eagles in the second half but could not make up the first half difference.“Paonia is generally a good shooting team and Saturday they were a great shooting team, 10 for 13 from behind the three-point line is tough to deal with,” Hejl said. “We have to learn to have the right attitude even when things aren’t going our way, otherwise the holes become too deep to dig out of. We’re young and we’ll learn but the learning curve has to be sharp because now it’s playoff time and the margin for error goes down significantly in the playoffs.”