Panthers open season next week at shootout

The Panthers will be led by seniors Mason Fortunato, Kody Denny, David Contreras and Ethan Peacock this season. The Panthers will open the season next week in the WREA Cowboy Shootout in Meeker.
The Panthers will be led by seniors Mason Fortunato, Kody Denny, David Contreras and Ethan Peacock this season. The Panthers will open the season next week in the WREA Cowboy Shootout in Meeker.

RANGELY I The Rangely Panthers boys’ basketball team will wait until next week to open the season at the White River Electric Association Cowboy Shootout. The Panthers will open the season against Grand Valley next Thursday.
Eric Hejl will start his second year at the helm of the Panther program with 17 boys out for the season.
“We have fewer out than I had hoped but I still think our depth and balance will be a big key to our success,” Hejl said.
The Panthers will be led by seniors Kody Denny, Ethan Peacock, Mason Fortunato and David Contreras.
“Kody and Ethan are two of our captains and I expect both of them to be major contributors and leaders,” Hejl said. The Panthers finished the season with a 9-10 record and a top four league finish, “Better than a lot of people were expecting.”
Sophomores Cameron Enterline and Connor Phelan both have a year of varsity experience and according to their coach, “have the tools needed to be special players.”
“Andrew Morton (sophomore) and Cory Evans (junior) are also a couple of kids I feel can step in and play key roles that will be vital to our success,” Hejl said. “There are at least five or six guys that could score 20 on any given night, which should make it tough on opposing defenses.
Hejl believes the league is “wide open” with at least five teams being in the mix he expects will lead to “some very competitive and exciting matchups throughout the season.”
“We’ve set some goals this year as a team, first is to win the league (both regular season and tournament) and second is to advance further in the state playoffs than we did last year,” Hejl said. “I feel both of these goals are very attainable, based on our talent and potential but we must do all of the little things right and have everybody in the team first mind set, 100 percent of the time.”
Hejl will be assisted again this season by Cody Bruton and Chris Hejl.
“Our lack of size will force us to play a little more up tempo and depend a little bit more on outside shooting but we definitely have athletes to make that happen,” Hejl said. “In order for that style of basketball to be effective our defense and rebounding must be relentless because it’s nearly impossible to run the floor when you’re taking the ball out of the bottom of net and giving up second chance opportunities. Those areas will be the main focus of practice as we prepare for Grand Valley in our first game of the WREA Shootout on Dec. 8.”