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RANGELY I The Panthers found the competition tough last Friday in Baggs, Wyo., losing 50-60 to the Little Snake River Rattlers for a third time this season but came back and defeated the West Grand Mustangs 37-33 in Kremmling last Saturday, starting league play with a win.
“The game we really needed to win last weekend was the game against West Grand,” head coach Eric Hejl said. “It was the first of a 10-game stretch made up entirely of league games.”
Hejl said his team fell behind early against the Rattlers, “due to some hot shooting early by Baggs.”
“We were able to keep things steady in the third quarter and then actually made things interesting by making a run to it it within six points with about three minutes left,” Hejl said. “Unfortunately it was too little, too late and we didn’t quite have enough gas left in the tank to come all the way back but overall, the effort was good from our guys.”
In Kremmling last Saturday, Rangely trailed 5-13 after the first quarter but outscored the Mustangs 14-10 in the second to pull within four at halftime. The Panthers only scored two points in the third quarter and only allowed West Grand to score six to trail 21-29 going into the final quarter.
“We seemed a little slow on our feet for the first three quarters and had to battle through some cold shooting but we showed a lot of heart and stuck with it and thankfully shots started to fall in the fourth quarter,” Hejl said.
Hejl said his team’s defense increased their intensity in the fourth quarter, which helped them take the lead late in the game.
“Connor (Phelan) and Chas (Byerly) both had crucial steals late in the game, allowing us to take the lead with about three minutes to play,” Hejl said. “From that point we played good enough defense and made just enough free throws to squeak by with a win.
Rangely outscored the Mustangs 16-4 in the fourth quarter.
“The final margin was only four points but for us this win is much bigger than that,” Hejl said. “It’s a little bit of revenge for the game in West Grand last year but mostly it’s about what it means as far as getting a good start to what is by far the most crucial stretch of game we will have this season.”
Byerly led the team with 14 points, Phelan scored 11, Cameron Enterline added nine and Cory Evans finished with three.
The Panthers will travel to Plateau Valley this Friday and host DeBeque Saturday.
“I’m hopeful we can build some momentum and make sure we are playing our best basketball when it matters most,” Hejl said.