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RANGELY | The Rangely lady Panthers basketball team played three games in three days last weekend, and winning two of the three games improved their overall record to 5-4 on the season and 3-0 in Western Slope Northern League play. The league win against the Saints from Vail Christian kept the Panthers in a tie with the Soroco Rams for first place in the league.
The first game of the weekend came on Thursday in Manila, Utah, where the Panthers corralled the Mustangs in a non-league match-up. The lady Panthers came out in a fast-paced offense accompanied by stifling defense to take a halftime lead of 27-3. Junior Adelynn Halcomb led all Panthers in the first half, scoring eight points, followed by freshman Ryann Mergelman who scored six points. The Panthers only surrendered three total points in the first half. All three points for the Mustangs came as free-throws.
The second-half defense by the Panthers proved to be as great as the first half. The Panthers did not surrender any points in the third quarter until the one-minute mark left when the Mustangs scored four points. At the end of the third quarter, the Panthers led 39-7. The fourth quarter commenced with the Lady Panthers non-starters completing the game in mop-up duty fashion. The game’s final score ended up 43-23 in favor of the Panthers and their fourth win on the season.
On Friday, the Panthers hosted the Vail Christian Saints in a match-up of unbeaten Western Slope North league teams. In an earlier meeting in January, the Saints defeated the Panthers by three points in the non-league game. The Panthers were hungry for the rematch, knowing that it would separate them in league play.
The Panthers found themselves down 18-10 at the end of the first half. They struggled to convert on their field goal attempts, and hot shooting for the Saints gave the Saints the first-half advantage. Eager to change the predicted outcome of many, the Panthers buttoned up their defense and intensely crashed the boards to bring the third-quarter score to 30-20 in favor of the Saints. Leading the Panthers in scoring during the first three quarters was freshman Ryann Mergelman who accrued 13 points. Next for the Panthers was junior Mary Scoggins with five points.
As the fourth quarter commenced, the Panthers knew they would have to continue to drive to the paint, rebound with fire, and shut down the Saints’ outside shooting to mount a comeback and win the game. As the Panthers buttoned down their defense, senior Dixie Rhea stepped up her great defense and shut down the Saints leading scorer, who averages 15 points a game for the Saints. Rhea cut the average in half and only allowed seven points all night. Mary Scoggins was tasked with guarding the Saints leading scorer, who averaged 21 points a game, and Scoggins held her to 14 points.
Mergelman, Scoggins, and Halcomb stepped up their scoring for the Panthers as they played an integral role in the Lady Panther’s 18 point quarter. Mergelman led all Panthers in the quarter with nine points, Scoggins added five, Halcomb with two, and freshmen Cantrell and Dembowski each scored one point. With the 18 points by the Panthers and the Saints eight points, the game ended in a tie-in regulation that brought on four more minutes of overtime to decide the game’s outcome.
In overtime, the Panthers scored eight points compared to the three by the Saints and secured the win in the game with a final score of 46-41. Scoring leaders for the Panthers were Mergelman with 23 points, Scoggins with nine points, and Halcomb with four points. The other scorers in the game were Cantrell with three, Dembowski with three, Rhea and Maya Mercado, each added two points for the 46 total points for Panthers. With the win, the Panthers moved ahead of the Saints with a 3-0 mark in league play to stay in a tie for first place in league with Soroco.
The Western Slope League has been split into a northern division and a southern division, with teams playing each other once in their division. To determine the Western Slope League Champion, the two teams that finish in first place in their division will play each other and the two teams who finish second and so on. Teams do match-up in cross-division play, but the game does not count towards their league standings. This was the case in the last game of the weekend for the Panthers as they hosted the Paonia Eagles. The Eagles came away with a 38-25 victory over the Panthers. Leading the Panthers in scoring was Halcomb with 11 points, followed by Mergelman with five, sophomore Kyrah Phelps scored four, Rhea and Dembowski each scored two.
The Panthers will play three games this week for five days as two of the games are essential league games coming against West Grand and Soroco. Three of the remaining four games are all league games. They will determine the final seatings for the league standings and thus adding into the CHSAA 24-team state tournament bracket that is chosen on a set of ranking systems and evaluates the team’s seasons across the state to have the best representatives playing for the 2021 state title.