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RANGELY I Two games last week, and two losses.
But they were two games the Panthers could have — or should have — won.
“Absolutely, no ifs, ands or buts, we can win those games,” said coach Mark Skelton. “But if we don’t do those things — play better team defense and box out — it will be a struggle.”
Indeed, Rangely struggled, losing to Vernal, Utah, Dec. 15 and then following that up with another home loss to Plateau Valley last Friday. The Panthers fell to Vernal 78-69 in overtime, while succumbing to Plateau Valley 53-50.
In both games, defense and rebounding proved to be the Panthers’ downfall.
“If you give a team too many chances, they will beat you,” Rangely coach Skelton said. “You give a team that many attempts and they’re going to be successful. You have to deliver the knockout blow.”
In last Friday’s game, the Panthers got off to a good start, but things went downhill from there.
“We played pretty good in the first quarter,” Skelton said. “Then it just kind of fell apart. They outscored us pretty badly in the second quarter, and then it was back and forth. It was ugly. Our defense wasn’t solid and we weren’t rebounding. We gave them way too many second chances. They had sometimes two, three, even four shots at the basket.”
Playing good defense and blocking out on rebounds comes down to technique and effort, Skelton said. Something the Rangely coach will continue to preach to his team.
“Effort is the biggest part of all in defense and rebounding,” Skelton said. “Effort in basketball is almost everything. If you don’t practice it, then it shows in the games. We have to play with a lot more intensity.”
Senior Patrick Phelan led the Panthers in scoring against Plateau Valley with 30 points, while fellow senior Adam Dahl added seven.
“I can’t complain about the offense. That will be hit and miss, but the effort, you have to have that every night,” Skelton said.
The Panthers, with only one player who stands over 6-foot — Kindal Cushman is 6-1, but he’s only available when he’s not competing for the Rangely wrestling team — can’t do anything about their lack of height. But Skelton said they can do something about putting forth a better effort.
“(The lack of height), that’s with us all the time. We’ve gotta work extremely hard, or it will be more of the same,” the Rangely coach said. “If we play better team defense, which we’re capable of doing, (the Panthers could have won those games last week). We just have to keeping working at it and, hopefully, they will catch on.”
After taking a break for the Christmas holiday, the Panthers, now 3-3 on the season, will resume play Jan. 5 with a rematch against Vernal, and then host Manila, Utah, on Jan. 8, before starting league play.