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RANGELY — The Panthers saved their best for last.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t quite good enough.
In a double-overtime barnburner, Rangely fell to Custer County 83-80 last Friday at the 2A regional tournament in Grand Junction.
Even though the outcome wasn’t what he hoped for, Coach Mark Skelton was proud of his team.
“I think it was the best game the kids played all year,” Skelton said. “Even though it was a loss, it was their best performance. There are such things as good losses, meaning how you perform.”
And the Panthers performed well, particularly in the third quarter, when they outscored Custer County 23-11.
“Unfortunately, Custer County was a field goal better than us,” Skelton said. “But you can’t take away what the kids did. I would rather end it this way, with their best performance But it’s bittersweet.”
Rangely had the ball at the end of regulation, with a chance to win the game.
“We had an opportunity at the end of the fourth quarter, but we didn’t get a shot off,” Skelton said.
Both teams scored nine points in the first overtime, to force the second extra period.
“At the end of the first overtime we were ahead, but they threw in a shot with a couple of seconds to go,” Skelton said. “It was good defense, but the shot just went in. So, we had opportunities. They just made one move better. That’s what it came down to.”
Junior Patrick Phelan accounted for more than half of Rangely’s points. He poured in 43 points, while making four 3-pointers and going 13-of-14 from the free-throw line.
“He did have a lot of points,” Skelton said of Phelan’s performance. “He played a very good game. He didn’t force any shots, that I can recall.”
As well as Phelan played, it wasn’t the most points scored by a Rangely player. In 1975, Jeff Anderson scored 51 points against Rifle.
The Panthers, who finished the season with a 14-9 record, had two players in double figures against Custer County. Besides Phelan, Roman Chavez added 14 points, and Kanden Brady had nine.
Throughout the game, the two teams matched each other, shot for shot.
“We both opened up six- or eight-point leads, and the other team would close the gap,” Skelton said. “There must have been several lead changes. We were two evenly matched teams. They were the mirror image of us.”
But with time running out at the end of the second overtime, and Rangely trailing by one point, the Panthers were forced to foul.
“You have to foul (in that situation), and they made the free throws,” Skelton said.
Five seniors played their last game for the Panthers: Brady, Chavez, James Herrera, Blake Mecham and Michael Morton.
“We’re losing some people,” Skelton said, “so we’ll have a lot of work to do.”