Panther head coach Mike Heny said winning both games was “absolutely critical.”
“The kids knew it. We talked about it. We had to come home and play with confidence,” Heny said.
The weekend was also the Panthers’ highest scoring of the season, topping the 60-mark for the first time in back-to-back games.
The Panthers got off to a slow start before running the third-ranked Lyman Eagles off the floor Friday night, winning 64-46. It was drastically different from the close, back-and-forth game the teams had in their first meeting, which Powell won 52-48.
“I’m a little surprised we were able to beat them as easily as we did,” Heny said. “Once our offense got rolling we just executed very well, and our defense was strong all night.”
Powell found themselves down 6-3 and without a field goal after 4:50 of play. But senior Marshall McArthur soon took off, scoring two buckets sandwiched around a block and the Panthers led 11-8 after one.
The Powell crowd made itself known following a timeout called by frustrated Eagles head coach Don Toomer, who found himself on the wrong side of a 17-9 Panthers run. Powell would add one more basket before the horn sounded and led 30-19 at half.
Games past have seen Powell take the foot off the throttle after a strong first half. Not Friday night. The Panthers opened the third quarter with five straight points, allowing Lyman one basket before scoring another five to go up 40-21. The Panthers had a 17 point advantage to start the final quarter.
Lyman gave itself one more shot at a comeback, but unable to put a dent into Powell’s lead, the Eagles put in their reserves with three minutes left. Powell answered by doing the same.
McArthur carried the Panthers with 24 points, nine of which came by way of the 3-pointer.
Junior guard Cory Heny was the only other Panther to score in double digits. Heny hit three 3-pointers and one 2-point shot.
Powell’s defense had one of its best performances Friday night, allowing only 19 points in the first half, and 27 in the second (when most of Powell’s starters were sitting).
Heny said his defense’s focus was aimed towards Lyman’s Cisco Taylor and Kyle Stokes, two of the top scorers in all of 3A.
“They go as those two go and we were really focused on (stopping them),” Heny said
Powell’s offense took a couple quarters to get started before ultimately blowing out Mountain View 68-45 Saturday.
The first quarter saw the Buffaloes (2-9, 7-11) hang with the Panthers, who led by only one heading into the second.
Heny said his team may have been suffering a little bit of a letdown just hours after Friday’s big win.
“We put a lot of energy into Lyman,” Heny said. “They were No. 3 and Friday nights always have a little more energy than Saturday.”
Powell slowly extended the lead in the second quarter and took a 27-22 lead into halftime.
Heny said he had to make some key offensive adjustments so that the Panthers could better attack Mountain View’s zone defense.
“We were becoming too perimeter oriented in that first half,” Heny said.
Those adjustments focused on getting the ball down low, specifically to junior forward Hayden Cragoe.
Cragoe led the Panthers to an offensive outburst following half time. Powell outscored Mountain View 24-8 in the third quarter, after which Heny said his team was able to coast to victory.
“Hayden kept slashing in, wide open,” Heny said. “His timing on cues were perfect and kids were hitting him in stride.”
Cragoe was the Panthers’ leading scorer with 20, followed by 19 from sophomore Kalei Smith.
Heny said Smith’s aggression and hot shooting led to his big day.
“He hit a couple threes which really got him going,” Heny said. “He got back to driving and slashing like he’s capable of.”
McArthur added 13 points and sophomore Carter Baxter had eight.
The Panthers (7-4, 9-8) are in a tie with Lyman (7-4, 12-6) and Lander (7-4, 12-7) for 3A West runner-up. Powell owns a 2-0 head-to-head tiebreaker against the Eagles, but lost the first match against Lander. The Panthers travel to Lander this Saturday and, with a win, potentially could jump the Tigers in the standings.
The Panthers lost 55-41 when Lander came to Powell Jan. 25, but Heny said his team is better prepared to play against the Tigers’ zone this time around.
“We were caught a little bit by surprise by how aggressive they were out of their zone,” he said.
Heny will be looking for his team to have a balanced offense, capable of scoring both inside and out.
“(Lander’s) not an easy place to play and Lander’s a good team so the kids are going to have to be focused,” he said.
Powell first faces Pinedale (0-11, 1-18) Friday at 7:30 p.m., before heading to Lander for Saturday’s 2:30 p.m. tip-off.