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Smith carries Panthers on road

PHS junior Carter Baxter looks to keep the play alive against the Pinedale Wranglers on Jan. 31. Baxter scored eight points in Powell’s 62-60 win at Jackson on Saturday. PHS junior Carter Baxter looks to keep the play alive against the Pinedale Wranglers on Jan. 31. Baxter scored eight points in Powell’s 62-60 win at Jackson on Saturday. Tribune photo by Greg Wise

Junior guard scores 34 to lead Panthers to second win of weekend 

Junior guard Kalei Smith has led the Powell High School boys’ basketball team in scoring all season, but in recent games the Panthers have utilized a balanced attack.

On Saturday afternoon, things were out of balance, but Smith made sure the Panthers still won. He scored 34 points, nearly setting a school record, and led Powell, now 11-5 overall and 7-2 in the Class 3A West, to a 62-60 win over Jackson Hole. Smith nailed a short jumper in the closing seconds for the game-winner.

Smith, who came into the weekend as the West’s leading scorer at 19 points per game, had 20 to pace Powell to a 61-54 win over Star Valley Friday night. That 54-point weekend was highlighted by his performance Saturday, when Smith hit 3-pointers and also drove to the hoop when needed.

“I’d probably say it was one of my better games,” Smith said. “I was feeling good and that was what I needed to get the job done.”

Head coach Chase Kistler said Smith’s career day snuck up on him.

“I was impressed by how quiet he got (his points),” Kistler said of his star guard’s showing. “I didn’t even notice until after the game, when someone told me he was close to the school record. To me it was a quiet 34 points. He shot the ball extremely well, didn’t miss many shots.”

The record for most points scored by a Panther boy in a game is 35, set by Derrick Payne during the 1979-80 season.

Smith said he wasn’t disappointed about falling just short of the school record.

“That wasn’t on my mind very much,” he said, noting he was still a junior. “I’ve got plenty of time to worry about that.”

Powell jumped out to a 12-0 lead on Jackson Hole (6-11, 2-7 in the conference) but the Broncs scored the next 10 points to turn it into a game. Smith hit a pair of 3-pointers in that opening run and added another one later in the first period.

Smith said his three triples in the opening quarter were the result of Jackson coming out in a zone.

“The only way to get them out of it was to shoot them out of it,” he said.

Jackson Hole scrambled to stay in the game, and would not let Powell run away with it.

“After we jumped out quick, I told them, don’t panic when Jackson goes on their run,” Kistler said. “That’s what they do, and on their home court they’re going to hit those shots.”

The Panthers held a 33-29 halftime edge but the Broncs knotted it at 33-33 early in the third period.

Smith led a charge to put Powell back in control, and soon the Panthers had a 43-35 lead. But the Broncs kept rallying, causing Kistler to call timeouts to try to stem the tide and refocus his players.

But despite Smith’s heroics, Jackson Hole took a lead in the fourth period, and when Smith took his first rest of the game, the Broncs took a 56-51 lead.

“I always try to give them a little bit of a rest before that last push in the fourth quarter. It’s not worth having them in there when they are tired,” Kistler said. “I always like to give guys a rest. He was tired and he needed a few minutes.”

Smith came back onto the court and the Panthers soon tied the game when he nailed a short shot. He missed a dunk but senior post Garrett Michael, who was second in scoring for Powell with eight, was there to rebound and score, tying the game again.

“You get rewarded for hustling. Garrett did get ready for the putback,” Kistler said. “Garrett, he gets those tough points. He gets those battles down low. With his size, he’s always got someone hanging on him, but that was an important basket.”

With the game deadlocked at 60-60, Powell gained possession and then called timeout with 20 seconds to play to try to set up a winning shot.

Smith’s shot was blocked but Powell regained possession and he hit a short jumper with 2.9 seconds to play. That lead held, and Powell had recorded a two-win weekend.

Kistler said he called a play for Smith, and options were available if the Broncs’ defense swarmed to him.

“I felt comfortable giving him that opportunity,” he said. “Help was late getting there and he hit it.”

Smith said he was glad to have the opportunity to take the game-winning shot.

“I was just open,” he said. “Lots of times I am double-teamed but I wasn’t and I just did my job.”

Kistler said he was glad to get on the road home with a pair of conference victories.

“It was kind of a weird game,” he said. “We came out real relaxed. I would say we never lost control. They were playing the game of momentum.”

Friday night, there was no buzzer-beater this time against Star Valley.

Powell lost the Class 3A title game to Star Valley last year on a shot as time expired, and fell to the 56-53 to the Braves in overtime on Dec. 14 after tossing away a comfortable lead at the end of the fourth quarter.

But Friday night in Afton, the Panthers seized control of the game in the third period and rolled to a 61-54 win.

Powell and Star Valley, which dropped to 8-8 and 5-5 in the Class 3A West, were locked in a close game for the first three quarters, with the game tied at 14-14 after one and the Panthers clinging to a 25-24 edge at halftime. The third quarter, however, belonged to Powell, despite foul trouble that kept Kistler making constant lineup changes.

Smith had a slow start with just two points at halftime, but he scored 10 in the third period and ended up with 20 points. Senior Hayden Cragoe, once more bothered by fouls, stayed on the court to net 15.

Senior Blake Schwan hit a pair of key threes to add eight points, and Michael and junior Carter Baxter also added eight apiece.

“It was almost like a deja vu,” Kistler said, noting that like the game earlier this season, the Panthers had an eight-point lead in the closing moments of the game.

“In my head, it was definitely a deja-vu moment,” he said. “But this time we made our free throws and finished it off.”

Powell hosts Lyman at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Mountain View at 2:30 p.m. Saturday. It is the final two-game weekend at home for the Panthers.

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