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RANGELY I The Panther basketball team needed to win in Paonia last Saturday in the final game of the regular season in order to host a district pigtail game Tuesday. Fortunately they won the game in Paonia but unfortunately they lost the pigtail game to the same team, ending their season in Rangely.
“We just picked a bad night to go ice cold shooting the ball,” head coach Eric Hejl said of the pigtail game against the Paonia Eagles. “I think we may have been a little unfocused to start and as the head coach I take full responsibility. Just because you’ve beaten a team a couple of times, doesn’t mean you can relax and just assume that you’ll do it again and I need to do a better job getting our team prepared to play with the right mind set every game.”
Rangely played Meeker Friday last and lost to the league champion Cowboys 31-61, then traveled to Paonia the following day and defeated the Eagles 70-58, making them the No. 4 seed and host to one of the pigtail games.
“We started out OK against Meeker in the first quarter but after that we couldn’t maintain any offensive consistency and they started hitting more of their shots,” head coach Eric Hejl said.
The Panthers trailed by three (8-11) after senior Ethan Peacock hit a 3-pointer plus a free throw and classmate Mason Fortunato added two baskets in the first period but the Panthers would only hit six field goals the rest of the game.
The Cowboys led 29-13 at halftime, then limited the Panthers to 18 points in the second half, while Meeker scored 32 to put the game away.
“As a team our energy level on defense seems to go down when we get frustrated with our offense,” Hejl said. “Sometimes we can withstand some offensive droughts but for whatever reason it’s always tougher for our guys to push through mentally when we play in Meeker. Sometimes I think we want to win so bad and prove a point when we play up there, we end up with guys maybe psyching themselves out a little bit and becoming tentative.”
The Panthers were able to put Friday’s game behind them the following day in Paonia, jumping out to a 10-1 led and led the entire game.
“Cameron (Enterline), who didn’t have his best game the night before, was a whole new player Saturday,” Hejl said. “He opened the game with a three and before we knew it we had jumped out to a 10-1 lead, mostly on his shoulders with both scoring and rebounding (he finished with 22 points, 13 rebounds and four steals). I knew it was a good sign because once they started to pay more attention to Cameron, it just opened things up for Kody (Denny), who made a living at the free throw line, Connor (Phelan) and Ethan (Peacock) later in the game.”
Denny finished the game with 17 points, including making 13 of 16 from the free throw line, Phelan scored 12 and Peacock finished with eight.
The win was the second for the Panthers over the Eagles this year but it is difficult to beat a team three times in one season and the Panthers could not do it, as they would play and lose to Paonia at home Tuesday 55-65.
The Panthers fell behind early (14-20 after the first quarter and trailed 27-34 at halftime. Paonia extended their lead to 10 at the end of the third quarter and although Rangely pulled within five two times, the final margin was 10.
Enterline again led the Panthers with 21 points and Denny scored 16. Chas Byerly scored five, Andrew Morton four, Cory Evans and Peacock each added three, Fortunato two and Jake Massey made a free throw.
“I still have a positive attitude about where our program is headed but I feel bad for the seniors (Denny, Fortunato, David Contreas and Peacock) because this was their last shot and I feel like it got cut short.”