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January 20, 2009 4:11 am

Panther boys edge Lovell, Riverton

Written by Tribune Staff

PHS's winning streak reaches three games

The Powell High School Panthers, riding the momentum of a Jan. 10 victory over Lyman, picked up road wins against Riverton and Lovell late last week to even their overall record at 5-5.

PHS edged Riverton 54-51 Friday and followed with a 46-43 decision over Lovell the following day. Those wins left the Panthers holding a three-game winning streak.

“There were a ton of positives for us over the weekend,” said PHS head coach Troy Hildebrand. “That was a good test for us at Riverton against a quality 4A team. We knew they would use man-to-man pressure against us, and our guys responded well. Riverton came out with full-court pressure at the start, but we handled it and got them out of their press for about two and a half quarters.

“Our guys were pretty tired after that game, but they still came out the next night and played hard against a good Lovell team. You could tell we were a little tired, but our guys fought through that and got another big win.”

Against Riverton, Hildebrand said the Panthers were aggressive when it came to attacking the basket. Of PHS's 22 field goals in the game, 17 came from inside the paint. On the other end of the court, Hildebrand said his squad primarily used a zone defense, which proved to be effective against the Wolverines' offensive attack.

At halftime, PHS held a 28-21 advantage and pushed the lead to nine points in the third period. However, the Wolverines closed the gap and took a 40-38 lead by the start of the fourth and final quarter.

“Once they tied it, it was a back-and-forth game,” Hildebrand said. “From about the middle of the third to the late stages of the fourth, it was either a two-point game or tied. The bright spot for us in the game was that we were able to answer the challenge when we had to, and it wasn't just one or two players stepping up. Everybody made contributions, and that's what helped us get the win in a close game.”

Late in the contest, Hildebrand said PHS point guard Jordan Brown hit a key 3-point basket that put the Panthers ahead by five points with just more than three minutes to play. With nine seconds left and PHS up by two points, Matt McArthur hit a pair of clutch free throws to seal the victory.

PHS, despite facing a great deal of defensive pressure, finished with only 13 turnovers. The Panthers also got a boost from four players who recorded double-digit point totals. Galen Mills and Ryan Brandt paced the offense with 14 points each, and Brown and McArthur added 12 each. The scoring was rounded out by Gavin Mills, who had two points. Brandt also led the rebounding effort with eight boards. Brown chipped in with five assists and three steals.

On Saturday night, the Panthers traveled to Lovell for a Class 3A, West Conference matchup and came away with a 46-43 win. The victory snapped a five-game losing streak against the Bulldogs.

Hildebrand said fatigue played a role in the game, particularly in the early stages. The Panthers, who returned to Powell at 1 a.m. Saturday following their road game with Riverton, got behind 20-9 by the start of the second period. Lovell's lead grew to as many as 14 points, but the Panthers never gave up and began cutting into the deficit.

A 7-0 run by PHS in the second quarter kept the game close after it appeared it might get out of hand. By halftime, the Panthers trailed by only six.

“To our guys' credit, even when they were down 14, they never let up,” Hildebrand said. “That 7-0 run was big, and that's what helped get us back in the game.”

The Panthers, working against a zone defense by Lovell, took the lead during the third period. And once they got it, they never trailed again. Lovell threatened to tie the game after cutting its deficit to 38-36 with less than three minutes to play, but McArthur hit a 3-pointer from the corner to push PHS's lead to five points.

“That was a big shot, and after that we were able to hit free throws down the stretch,” Hildebrand added. “During the last minute, we missed on a one-and-one situation, but Ryan Brandt got the offensive rebound for us. He took a negative and turned it into a positive, and that was a big boost for us at a critical time in the game.”

The Panthers had three players notch double-digit point totals in the game. Brandt led the way with 17 points, and Brown and McArthur added 11 and 10 points, respectively. Galen Mills chipped in with six points, and Gavin Mills added two to round out the offensive effort. Brandt and McArthur paced the rebounding effort with 12 and six boards.

• Up next: The Panthers (5-5 overall, 2-3 West Conference) have one game this week, but it is a big one. On Friday, PHS will travel to face West Conference rival Cody in a 7:30 p.m. contest.

“Coach (Jay) McCarten has those guys playing well,” Hildebrand said. “It will be another tough challenge for us because I know we'll get their best effort Friday night.”