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RANGELY I The Panthers boys’ basketball team delighted its fans Friday last, defeating the Paonia Eagles 68-59. In Hayden Saturday, the Panthers lost 60-74. The Panthers will host Vail Mountain Friday and North Park Saturday.
“Against Paonia we came out focused and ready to play,” head coach Eric Hejl said.
Cameron Enterline, Ethan Peacock and Connor Phelan all hit 3-pointers in the first quarter and Rangely jumped out to a 17-9 lead.
“That was exciting for me,” Hejl said of the 3-pointers and early lead. “I’ve felt all along we’re capable of getting scoring from a lot of different guys but up to this point we haven’t got them all going at the same time. In this game we really embraced the team approach and were successful early with intense pressure defense and good offensive execution.”
The Panthers picked up two technical fouls in the second quarter but were still able to match the Eagles’ 22 points to lead 39-31 at halftime.
“Our emotions got the best of us a couple of times but Connor caught fire from the outside and Ethan was hitting his mid-range shots as well,” Hejl said of Phelan’s four 3-pointers and Peacock’s six points in the second stanza.
“I like our guys to play with a little bit of fire but they’ve got to know how to keep their emotions in check,” Hejl said.
Senior Kody Denny paced the Panthers in the third quarter with eight points, including two from the free throw line.
“He’s (Denny) got a very quick first step and when he’s selective about when/where he attacks, it makes for a tough defensive match,” Hejl said about his senior guard.
Phelan led all scorers with 22 points, Denny added 14, Peacock 13 and Enterline finished with nine. Mason Fortunato scored five, Andrew Morton and Jake Massey each added two and Chaz Byerly got in the score book by making a free throw.
“The best thing about this game is that we had a solid team effort for all four quarters (especially defensively) and that’s what we’ll have to have every night if we want to beat good teams,” Hejl said.
The Panthers couldn’t put four quarters together against the Tigers the following day, falling behind by 23 points after the first two periods.
“We gave more points in the first half than we’d like to give up in a whole game,” Hejl said of Hayden’s 43-20 halftime lead.
“Ethan did a good job stepping up and hitting some shots that kept us somewhat in the game, but it was a pretty deep hole that we had dug ourselves by halftime,” Hejl said. Peacock finished with 12 points and scored in all four quarters against the Tigers, as did Denny.
“In the locker room I challenged the guys to re-group and come out with the goal of winning the second half with heart and determination and they really responded well,” Hejl said of the 40 points they scored in the second half, compared to Hayden’s 29. “It wasn’t quite enough to truly get back in the game, but they showed me and themselves that if you fight until the end you can at least still have something to build on. Kody and Ethan both showed me a lot this weekend from a leadership standpoint. This season hasn’t been all sunshine and roses for the seniors, but this weekend they really set the tone working hard until the final buzzer and leading as seniors should which bodes well for the rest of the season.”
Hejl is pleased with his team’s progress and excited about the rest of the season, including the two home games this weekend.
“For the most part we had good attitude and effort which are the two things we can always control even if the shots aren’t falling,” Hejl said in summary. “As long as we are in the right mindset in those areas, we’ll be a team that is going to have to be dealt with come districts, because we’ve got the athletes and talent to be a very good team and beat anybody on any given night.”