Powell, now 7-4 overall, 3-1 in the 3A West, was in the game going into the second half, coach Chase Kistler said, but Riverton went on an 18-5 run to open a commanding lead.
“It was a back-and-forth game all the first half,” Kistler said. “It was just a matter of one quarter that we really gave up too much.”
The Panthers entered the fourth period down by 18 points but staged a rally to get within seven at one point, he said.
“This team’s never given up, ever,” Kistler said. “They don’t know how to quit. They just keep fighting. It was a game we could have or should have won.”
But he said he did not want to dismiss Riverton, which “shot the ball very well,” Kistler said.
He said he was pleased Powell kept fighting back and made a game of it in the final minutes. Junior guard Kalei Smith once again paced Powell, scoring 21 points before he fouled out. Smith was seven of 10 from the foul line and has improved his performance there, Kistler said.
“He actually commented on that, that his shooting free throw percentage has gone up,” he said. “It was our Achilles’ heel.”
Senior Hayden Cragoe had 11 points and added seven rebounds and two steals.
“Hayden’s one of those players that does the little things, with the steals and rebounds,” Kistler said. “He does a lot of things outside of scoring.”
Junior Carter Baxter had nine points and five boards, senior Garrett Michael added six, senior Blake Schwan scored three and junior Zach Heny scored two points. Only six Panthers played.
Kistler said it “crossed my mind” to use more players, but when his squad cut into the Wolverines’ lead, he decided to stick with his core group. In addition, the Panthers played only one game over the weekend.
“When you’re on a run, it’s hard to take a kid out,” he said.
The 4A Wolverines are now 7-6 on the year.
Kistler said PHS will now turn its focus on its primary rival, as the Panthers head to Cody for a 7:30 p.m. game Friday night. The Broncs are 10-1.
“We learn from our mistakes and use them for preparation for Cody this weekend,” he said. “Cody will press you all up and down the court. They’re big, too. It’s going to be a rival match-up — the intensity is going to be up just like a regional and state game.”