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RANGELY I The Panther boys’ basketball team played three games in a row, winning the first two against league opponents but losing the last one in Wyoming last Saturday. Rangely beat Vail Christian 68-63 before defeating West Grand 61-56 at home, then lost to Little Snake River 45-79 in Baggs, Wyo. The Panthers will travel to Paonia for a non-league game Friday and host the Hayden Tigers Saturday in a league contest.
According to head coach Eric Hejl, the Panthers trailed in every quarter against Vail Christian, “except the one that counts.”
The Panthers trailed 14-20 at the end of the first quarter, despite 10 points from senior Caleb Templeton and four from classmate Kacey Denny. Three three-pointers by Denny in the second and another by Cameron Enterline, along with eight more from Templeton allowed the Panthers outscore their opponent by two points but still trailed by four at halftime.
“In the first half, we struggled with their half-court pressure and that turned into a lot of easy transition points for them on the other end,” Hejl said. “Caleb and Kacey really stepped up in the second quarter. We had a size advantage with Caleb and Kacey was able to step into a few threes on kick outs to keep us balanced offensively. We talk a lot about letting your defense create your offense and we did a good job of that in the second half, the fourth quarter especially.
Templeton finished with 31 and Denny scored 21 against Vail Christian.
According to Hejl, Rangely’s goal this season is to host a home game in the first round of the district tournament and Hejl knew the importance of the game against West Grand.
“We knew going in it could have a big effect on seeding for districts and we stressed that to our team before the game,” Hejl said.
Hejl said the Mustangs gave Templeton “a little more attention on defense” but after a “sloppy,” which left the Panthers trailing by four, the Denny brothers started taking advantage of open shots.
Hejl said Kody Denny only missed one shot and Connor Phelan and Chaz Byerly both made plays offensively and defensively at “key points in the second half.”
“Caleb still got his 20/10 (at least 20 points and 10 rebounds), but 13 of his 21 points came from the free throw line,” Hejl said.
Kacey Denny finished with 16 and his brother Kody added 12. Phelan scored eight and Byerly finished with four.
“Overall it was one of our more balanced games and up to this point probably our biggest win,” Hejl said.
The Panthers traveled to Wyoming the following day but third game in as many days proved to be too much.
“Our energy level and focus wasn’t there from the opening tip and against a team as good as Snake River, those are things you have to have,” Hejl said.
The Rattlers are currently undefeated in 13 games and ranked No. 1 in the 1A division in the state of Wyoming.
“They only have eight kids but every single one of them can hurt you,” Hejl said. “They just keep coming at you and coming at you in transition and they shoot a very high percentage from mid range. I was proud of the kids that played the second half and didn’t give up.”
The Panthers will travel to Paonia Friday for a non-league contest and host the Hayden Tigers Saturday.