Panthers lose league games to Eagles, Bulldogs

RANGELY I The Rangely Panthers lost league games last weekend to Paonia (53-57) at home, then in Hotchkiss to the Bulldogs (47-54) and will play in Meeker for the final game of the regular season this Friday. “All we can do is refocus, regroup and get ready for our county rivals,” head coach Eric Hejl said about moving forward. “Unfortunately if we don’t get a lot of help, it’s looking like we’ll find ourselves with a road game for the first round of districts, regardless of the outcome against Meeker, due to the way our tie breakers will shake out.” The first round of the district tournament will start next Tuesday and a bracket will not be determined until after this weekend’s games. Against the Paonia Eagles last Friday, Hejl said his team started well but lost intensity and the game. “We got off to a pretty good start on both ends and really could’ve had more than just a 14-9 lead if we could’ve finished a couple of easy shots in close,” Hejl said of his team’s play in the first quarter. “In the second quarter we seemed to kind of let up with our intensity and that sluggishness carried into the half. Rangely trailed 25-30 at halftime but came back late and had chances at the end. “By the time we finally snapped out of it, our fourth quarter comeback was too little, too late even though we still had two good looks to tie the game but both just rimmed out,” Hejl said. Andrew Morton led the Panthers with 13 points, Connor Phelan finished with 12 and Chas Byerly had 10. Cory Evans scored nine, Cameron Enterline five, while Luis Contreras and Colt Allred each added two against the Eagles. “Saturday night was similar in the sense we found ourselves digging out of a hole once again,” Hejl said of the game against the Hotchkiss Bulldogs. “After giving up 20 points in the first quarter, we buckled down on defense and were able to take the lead 22-21 before letting them go on another run prior the half.” The Panthers trailed 24-35 at halftime but were only able to score two points in the third quarter, putting them behind 26-44, going into the final quarter. “The third quarter was frankly a disaster,” Hejl said. “We didn’t defend, we didn’t rebound and we barely even scored. It was looking pretty bad going into the fourth quarter but once again we dug in and were able to claw back to within four after being down more than 20 at one point in the third.” Rangely outscored Hotchkiss 21-10 in the fourth quarter but were unable to complete their comeback. “Once again, it was more of the same with the run coming up just short,” Hejl said. Phelan led the Panthers with 24 points, including three, three-pointers and Enterline finished in double figures with 10. Byerly added five, Jake Massey and Cory Evans each added three and Luis Contreras made a basket against the Eagles. “The good news is, we are still good enough to beat any team in our league on any given night and that will be our message to our guys from here on out,” Hejl said. “It’s time for us to show a little pride and a little heart and we’ll be fine.”