RANGELY I The lady Panthers secured a much needed Western Slope League win against the DeBeque Dragons on Friday, Feb. 21. Coming into the game the Panthers were in a sixth-place conference tie with Paonia, who fell to Hotchkiss on Thursday. With the win against DeBeque, the Panthers secured the No. 6 spot in the conference and avoided a potential season-ending game Monday in Rangely to the Caprock Eagles. On a last-second shot by Adelynn Halcomb the Panthers secured their first-round bye in the district tournament.
The Panthers were led in scoring by Kacie Lapp who scored the lone two-points. The low scoring was not due to a lack of shooting, rather the ball could not find the bottom of the hoop for the Lady Panthers.
“Get to the free-throw line first and convert on those and the other shots will come,” head coach Jimmie Mergelman urged in a first quarter timeout. The Dragons played a stifling defense that caused some timely turnovers for the Panthers and the Dragons converted on those for nine points in the first quarter, giving them a 9-2 edge over the Panthers.
The girls converted enough shots in the second quarter to score 13 points and put them at 15 total for the two quarters. Hannah Wilkie led the Panthers in scoring in the second quarter with five points, followed by Halcomb with four points and Mary Scoggins and Kacie Lapp each added a bucket in the quarter.
Coming out at halftime the Panthers held on to a 15-13 lead. The lady Panthers kept their competitive drive on defense and only allowed six points to the Dragons to keep the game within reach at the end of the quarter.
Coming out of the huddle the Panthers found themselves down 19-15 and the Dragons increased the lead to 11 points with about four minutes left to play. That’s when the Panthers began to convert shots into made baskets regularly. Led again in scoring by Wilkie with eight points in the fourth quarter, the Panthers began their comeback. Six of Wilkie’s eight points came within a 60-second stretch that propelled the Panthers back into contention for the win. Kacie Lapp also added three points in the quarter on a shot where Lapp drew a foul and was able to convert on the shot for an “and-one” opportunity. Lapp made the free-throw and with that shot put the Panthers up one point. A couple of offensive rebounds allowed the Dragons to convert a shot with 10 seconds left in the quarter and the Dragons now led 29-28. As the Panthers brought the ball down the court, Mergelman used one of two remaining timeouts to call an inbounds play. With Halcomb throwing the inbounds pass, Mary Scoggins was able to spin and pin her opponent to come open. Halcomb inbounded the ball to Scoggins who then kicked it back out to an open Halcomb for a 15-foot shot on the baseline. As the ball rattled through the basket for the game-winning shot, the roar of the hometown crowd echoed throughout the entire Town of Rangely. The shot went through with less than two seconds left on the clock and the Panthers forced a turnover from the Dragons to secure the win.
With the win the Panthers secured their spot in the Western Slope League district tournament. They lost to Soroco Tuesday 45-55 and will play Paonia again on Thursday in DeBeque at the district tournament for fifth place. The Western Slope League will send the top five teams from the district tournament to the Colorado Regional Tournament. The seeding for the regional tournament will use the district placers and their RPI to seed the tournament.