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RANGELY I It was a good defensive game but Panther coach Eric Hejl attributed poor shooting in his team’s loss to the West Grand Mustangs and a “meltdown” in the third quarter for the loss against the Meeker Cowboys last Saturday in Rangely.
“In West Grand we played about our best defensive game of the season and really worked hard but just couldn’t get the shots to fall,” Hejl said. “We missed a lot of free throws and easy put backs in the first half that turned out to be costly later in the game.”
The Panthers led by two (8-6) after the first quarter and earned a 21-13 point lead at halftime, with most of the leading margin coming from two, three-pointers from sophomore Cameron Enterline.
Rangely’s margin narrowed to five at the end of the third quarter as the Panthers could only add eight to the scoreboard and were outscored by two by the Mustangs.
“In the fourth quarter we had trouble keeping them off the boards and they hurt us with second chance points,” Hejl said. “The effort was there but you gotta make shots win games, sometimes its really that simple.”
The Panthers lost 38-33.
Senior Kody Denny scored in each quarter and led the Panthers with nine points. Mason Fortunato, Ethan Peacock and Enterline all finished with six, Connor Phelan and Colt Allred each added four against the Mustangs.
“Against Meeker we really seemed like we were ready to give them a heck of a fight but then we had yet another third quarter meltdown,” Hejl said of the game against the Cowboys on his home court.
Rangely started with 16-15 lead after the first quarter, where Phelan scored seven, including a three-pointer and Cory Evans also added a three-pointer in the first stanza.
Denny made four free throws for the Panthers’ only points in the second quarter and Rangely trailed by eight at halftime.
Meeker’s Cooper and Gable Smith scored 15 of the Cowboys’ 21 points in the third quarter while holding the Panthers to six.
“Our guys need confidence to play well and sometimes we just don’t have the mental toughness that it takes to withstand a run by a good team,” Hejl said. “The pieces to the puzzle are all there, now its a matter of getting them all in the right place all the time rather than some of the time.”
The Panthers outscored the Cowboys in the fourth quarter 14-11 but they lost 60-40.
“One of our goals for the weekend was to limit our turnovers and we improved that area but when you don’t make open shots, you really put yourself in a tough spot,” Hejl said.
The Panthers will host the Paonia Eagles Friday and play in Hayden Saturday.