The Panthers lost Saturday to class 4A’s No.2-ranked Riverton Wolverines, but not before handing Cody a 47-32 loss.
The decisive 15-point win was a defensive effort in which the Panthers blocked six shots and had 11 steals.
Sophomore Kalei Smith was the team’s leading scorer with 12.
Senior Marshall McArthur recorded his second double-double of the season by scoring 11 points and hauling in 11 rebounds. He also had four assists, three blocks and two steals.
McArthur hit his only 3-point shot of the night. Six of his 11 points came at the free throw line, where he was 6-of-9.
The Panthers’ defense was especially stingy in the paint, where Panther players would swarm Broncs looking for easy baskets.
Junior forward Hayden Cragoe anchored the defensive effort down low with physical and aggressive play.
Cragoe pulled down eight rebounds, blocked three shots and had four steals to go along with his eight points. Cragoe was two-of-two from the field and four-of-four from the free throw line.
An impressive opening quarter saw the Panthers get out to a quick start. A patient Powell offense passed the ball around the perimeter before McArthur found Cragoe on the backdoor cut for the team’s first points of the game.
From there the Panthers went on an 11-4 run to close the first frame leading 13-5.
Fortunes would change in the second quarter, in which Cody outscored the Panthers 12-7, with the Broncs’ last three points coming on a last-second half-court heave that went in as the buzzer sounded.
Despite Cody’s second-quarter charge, Powell still held the momentum as the first half’s biggest highlights (save for the buzzer-beater) came from Panthers players.
Most notably were two back-to-back McArthur blocks down low, the second of which was followed by a McArthur “I don’t think so” smirk.
The Panthers began the second half like they began the first, scoring six points before Cody finally made a bucket with 4:48 to go in the quarter.
Smith, who was getting to the basket seemingly at will, beat his man off the dribble, rode the baseline and laid it in to go up 28-21 with 3:45 left.
This sparked an 8-0 run starring junior guard Cory Heny that pushed the Panthers’ lead up to 13.
Heny converted a 3-point-play after being fouled during a made lay-up. After stealing the ball on Cody’s ensuing possession McArthur found an open Heny who buried a 3-pointer to go up 34-21.
Up 10 to start the fourth, Powell rode its stingy defense and free throw shooting on its way to victory.
The Broncs only managed five points in the final eight minutes. An abundance of turnovers and travels led to extra possessions for the Panthers, who were content to use the clock and fouls situation to their advantage.
Cody made its first and only field goal of the quarter with only 2:38 left in the game.
A Cody steal would have led to an easy two points for the Broncs but a hustling Cragoe leapt over the would-be scorer for a punctuating block.
Cragoe’s athleticism and physicality led to two points a minute later when a Cody player was called for an over-the-back foul as he and Cragoe went up for a rebound. Both players came down with the ball and, even though the whistle had blown and the foul was called, the Bronc attempted to wrestle the ball away from Cragoe.
In what could be interpreted as a microcosm of the game, Cragoe was unaffected by the Cody player’s best effort and quickly ripped the ball away, cementing Powell’s control of the game.
Cragoe briefly stared down the Cody player, handed the ball to the ref and walked down to the other end of the court where he sank both free throw attempts.
With the hometown team up big on an especially cold night, the crowd began filing out with a couple minutes remaining on the clock, knowing bragging rights would remain in Powell at least until the teams’ next meeting, Feb. 22 at 7:30 p.m. in Cody.
Saturday’s match-up against Riverton, one of the state’s top teams, proved to be too much for Powell despite great shooting nights from the Panthers’ top-two scorers.
McArthur and Smith scored 19 apiece, but no other Panther scored more than five.
McArthur shot 6-of-9 from the field including one-of-two from beyond the arc. Six of his 19 came at the free-throw line, where the Panthers attempted only 12 shots the entire game.
The senior also had four rebounds and two assists.
Nine of Smith’s 19 came on 8-of-11 shooting, including a team-high three 3-pointers on six attempts. Smith also had three rebounds and an assist.
The Wolverines improved to 13-1, with their only loss coming against class 4A’s No.1-ranked Gillette.
The Panthers play tonight (Tuesday) at 7 p.m. in Worland.
Panthers head coach Mike Heny was not immediately available for comment.