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February 10, 2009 4:34 am

Jackson spoils PHS's bid for seventh straight win

Written by Tribune Staff

Pinedale also hands Panthers loss during weekend action

A six-game winning streak by the Powell High School Panthers was brought to an end last Friday during a 46-43 loss to the Jackson Broncs at PHS.

The game marked the fourth time in a row that the two teams have gone into overtime, and unfortunately for the fifth-ranked Panthers, their record in those games stands at 1-3. The day after that loss, PHS stumbled again and fell to Pinedale by a score of 42-34. Both contests were Class 3A, West Conference battles.

“We shot 35 percent or less in both games,” said PHS head coach Troy Hildebrand. “It was a case where we didn't make a lot of the shots we had made in the previous six games.”

Against Jackson, it was evident early on that the Panthers (8-7 overall, 4-5 West Conference) were in for a hard-fought contest as the Broncs built a 12-11 lead after one period of play. In the second stanza, the Panthers were able to outscore the Broncs 9-5 and took a slim, 20-17 advantage into the halftime break. That lead was short lived as the Broncs pushed ahead in the third period after putting 15 points on the scoreboard compared to just nine for the Panthers.
In the final quarter, it looked as if PHS was gaining the upper hand, thanks in part to a technical foul called on the Jackson bench. That call sent point guard Jordan Brown to the free-throw line, where he hit a pair of shots to push the Panthers ahead 35-34. PHS followed with a 2-point basket to go ahead 37-34.

PHS's momentum, however, didn't last for long. With just more than two minutes left in regulation, Brown fouled out. Not long after, Gavin Mills, regarded as one of the top defensive players on the team, joined Brown on the bench after picking up his fifth foul.

“That was a big key in the game,” Hildebrand said of Brown's fifth foul. “He's a big part of what we do, and it's tough for us when we don't have him on the floor.”

With roughly two minutes left on the clock, PHS had increased its lead to four points. But unlike they have done so often in the past two seasons in close games, the Panthers weren't able to get the baskets or free throws they needed to seal the outcome.

“We've typically done pretty well in that situation,” Hildebrand said. “We've found a way to protect late leads, but against Jackson that didn't happen.”

Jackson pushed ahead 41-39 with time winding down, but Galen Mills was able to knot the score at 41 before the end of regulation. The Broncs did have time to launch a potential game-winning shot before the buzzer after PHS tied the score, but the attempt failed.

In overtime, the contest remained close. Jackson's Rob Caeser put the Broncs ahead with a 2-pointer, but PHS's Galen Mills quickly tied the game at 43 with a pair of free throws. Jackson's Colin Thiel answered with two free throws of his own at the other end of the court to put the Broncs ahead 45-43.

With 56 seconds remaining, the Panthers endured a costly turnover, and Jackson was able to add one more successful free throw down the stretch to end the scoring at 46-43.

PHS finished the game with a 34-percent shooting mark from the field, where it hit two of eight from 3-point land and 13 of 36 from 2-point range.

“You have to give Jackson credit,” Hildebrand said. “They have a scrappy team, and they did a good job on the defensive end. They made it difficult for us when it came to shooting the ball.”

The Broncs didn't fare much better, hitting two of 10 from behind the arc and 15 of 31 from 2-point range. However, their 41-percent shooting percentage proved to be just enough to push them past the Panthers.

At the free-throw line, both teams struggled as well. The Panthers hit just 11 of 26 shots from the line, and Jackson connected on a mere 10 of 25 attempts.

“We were able to get to the line, but we weren't able to convert,” Hildebrand said. “Prior to that game, we had done a pretty solid job at the free-throw line. But we just couldn't get those shots to fall Friday night.”

Brown finished as the game's top scorer with 19 points. Ryan Brandt added 12 points and was the only other Panther to notch a double-digit point total. The remainder of the scoring was handled by Galen Mills (6 points), Matt McArthur (3), Gavin Mills (2) and Dallas Robirds (1). Brandt also posted a team-high 13 rebounds and six steals.

Jackson was paced by Caesar's 18-point effort, and Grant Rogers added 10 points.

Against Pinedale last Saturday, the Panthers' shooting woes continued in a 42-34 loss. PHS went zero for 11 from 3-point range, which played into Pinedale's use of a zone defense. From 2-point range, the Panthers managed to hit 13 of 26 shots, and at the free-throw line they connected on eight of 12 attempts. Overall, PHS finished with a 35-percent mark from the field.

“They zoned us for the majority of the game,” Hildebrand said. “We weren't able to hit shots from the perimeter, and we never were able to loosen up their defense.”

Six Panthers scored in the contest, but none of those were able to post double-digit point totals. Galen Mills led the way for PHS with nine points and was followed by McArthur (8), Brandt (8), Brown (6), Matt Kifer (2) and Gavin Mills (1). Brandt was PHS's top rebounder with seven boards. Gavin Mills added five rebounds, six assists and one steal, and Brown contributed with five rebounds, two assists and three steals.

Pinedale was paced by Keaton Cross' 11 points and Wilson Rogers' 10-point performance.

• Up next: The Panthers have two conference games scheduled this week and both are road matchups. The first will be against Lyman at 7:30 p.m. Friday. On Saturday, PHS will face Kemmerer at 2:30 p.m.

“We have to bounce back as a team, and we have to play with the energy we had during our six-game winning streak,” Hildebrand said. “Obviously, we need to do a better job shooting the ball, and we'll work on eliminating the turnovers that hurt us against Jackson and Pinedale. We had 20 turnovers against Jackson and 17 against Pinedale. We need to at least get that number below 15 so we can get those extra opportunities on the offensive end.”