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RANGELY I The Panthers boys’ basketball team defeated the North Park Wildcats 47-38 last Thursday in its first home game but then lost to the Little Snake River Rattlers 44-48 the following day. The Panthers will not play again until Jan. 11, 2013, a non-league game in Paonia.
The Panthers pounced on the Wildcats early and took an 18-4 lead after the first quarter.
“We started off with some good shooting from Cory (Evans) and Connor (Phelan) to go along with some good defense, which allowed us to work on some things as well as get some of our bench players some quality minutes throughout the game,” head coach Eric Hejl said.
Phelan hit two three-pointers in the first quarter. Evans and Cameron Enterline each added a basket from behind the three-point arc and Chas Byerly scored four of his 12 points in the first quarter, to give the Panthers a solid lead.
The Panthers kept it up in the second quarter, adding 15 more points, another three and four free throws from Evans, with Byerly, Enterline, Andrew Morton and Colt Allred all adding a basket to give the Panthers a 33-13 lead at halftime.
“We had good balance on offense and Chas, Cameron and Colt all played tremendous defense to get us the big lead in the first two quarters,” Hejl said. “In the second half we kind of relaxed a little bit and in turn they were able to score some points on us but I never really felt as though the game was in jeopardy. Overall I was pleased with the outcome but I do feel like we need to do a better job of maintaining our focus even when we have a comfortable lead because that is the best time to focus on doing all of the ‘little things’ right.”
Evans led the team with 13, Byerly finished with 12 and Enterline finished in double figures with 10 against the Wildcats.
Against the Rattlers the Panthers found themselves trailing 2-10 early in the first quarter before coming back.
“We had to get through a little nervous energy early but we found our rhythm about four minutes into the game and were able to come away with a 13-12 lead at the end of the first quarter,” Hejl said. “At this point, I knew it was going to be a grind the rest of the way and our guys definitely battled ‘til the end but we just couldn’t get enough shots to fall, especially free throws.”
The game was tied at 23 at halftime and the Panthers trailed by two going into the final quarter. Rangely only made five of 16 free throws and Snake River shot about the same percentage from the charity line (nine of 28).
Both coaches questioned the officiating and both were slapped with technicals. Hejl was ejected from the game late in the fourth quarter and was apologetic to his team and fans.
“I definitely didn’t agree with a lot of the calls but it doesn’t help my team or set a good example to lose my cool like I did,” Hejl said. “I tell them all the time that they have to find a way to keep their composure and just play the game, so when I don’t follow that same advice, it sends the wrong message all around. I told them after the game that I was proud of every person in the locker room except for myself because I felt like I had let them down.”
Hejl wanted to issue the following apology:
“I’d like to apologize to any of the fans, parents or young Rangely students that were at the game last Friday. My actions were a direct contradiction to how I feel we should handle adverse situations in regards to sportsmanship and the competitive spirit of high school athletics. It’s an experience I will learn from and in turn I hope will make me a better coach and make us a better team.”
Byerly led the Panthers with 12 points against the Rattlers, Allred added 11, Evans and Phelan each scored seven, Enterline six and Morton one.
“As long as we can keep our heads held high and come into our next practice focused and ready to keep grinding and getting better, this team still has the potential to be very good,” Hejl said. “It’s just going to depend on whether or not we can be encouraged by all of the positives from the last few games, rather than be discouraged by what the final score ended up. I’m looking forward to the challenge that the second half of the season presents and I hope the community will be there to support us as well.”