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Panthers ‘in driver’s seat’

PHS junior Kalei Smith rises for a 3-point try against Lyman on Friday. Smith matched a career high with 34 points in the 53-36 victory over the Eagles and scored 52 total points over the weekend. PHS junior Kalei Smith rises for a 3-point try against Lyman on Friday. Smith matched a career high with 34 points in the 53-36 victory over the Eagles and scored 52 total points over the weekend. Tribune photo by Dante Geoffrey

Smith nets 52 on weekend, but team focused on Lander now 

Coach Chase Kistler was very pleased with his team’s performance last weekend, as the Powell High School boys’ basketball team rolled to a pair of easy wins on its home court.

“It was a good weekend for us,” Kistler said Saturday afternoon. “Very solid weekend. But there’s always room for improvement.”

If so, the Panthers’ opponents better gear up. Powell defeated Lyman 53-36 Friday night and crushed Mountain View 57-27 Saturday afternoon. The Panthers are now 9-2 in the Class 3A West and 13-5 overall.

Both Cody and Lander are 10-1 in the conference, and Powell will play both in its final three circuit games in a quest for the top seed at Regionals.

On Friday night, junior Kalei Smith matched his performance on Feb. 8, as he once again scored 34 points, one short of the school record for points by a boy in a single game. Smith added 18 points in Saturday’s blowout, despite sitting out the fourth quarter.

Powell jumped to a 14-4 lead over Lyman at the end of the first period Friday. Smith scored eight consecutive points to spark the Panthers to the lead.

Senior guard Cory Heny, who has been sidelined with a wrist injury, returned, and right away showed his ability to move the ball and set a tempo. Heny’s comeback also allowed Kistler to use his bench more.

“The scary thing is, he has a lot of room for improvement,” the coach said.

Powell controlled the game, despite some runs by Lyman. The Panthers swatted away several Eagle shots inside, and prevented the visitors from getting too close.

The only questions at the end were if Smith, who was hot from the outside, would break the school record, and if he would personally outscore Lyman. He was fouled with seconds to go, and made his first shot for his 34th point, but missed the second shot and clearly reacted at the lost chance to tie the record.

“We were patient and got the lead and never gave it up,” Kistler said. “He’s a tough guard when he’s hitting from the outside. But if someone shuts him down, we will be in trouble. We need everyone to contribute.”

Junior forward Carter Baxter added nine points.

Junior Drew Rollins and senior Tyson Gillies paced Lyman, which is now 4-7, 6-13, with nine points apiece.

On Saturday, Powell leaped to a big lead early and just kept building on it in a blowout of the Buffalos. The score was 15-2 at one point, and the game was essentially over at that point.

Powell led 31-14 at the half and Smith had 16 points. He only scored two in the second half, as other players took more shots, and Kistler chose to rest his star.

Senior Hayden Cragoe, who scored nine points, displayed his versatility when he stole a pass, fed the ball to a teammate on the break, and then rebounded the miss and scored the hoop himself.

“He can do a lot for us,” Kistler said.

Baxter added 10 points and junior guard Zach Heny contributed seven off the bench.

Kistler cleared his bench in the fourth period and said there was no sense in risking injuries to his top players with such a big lead.

Alex Houskeeper led Mountain View, which is 2-9, 7-12, with 12 points.

The Panthers hit the road this weekend, taking on Lander Friday night. The Tigers defeated Powell 63-50 in Panther Gym on Feb. 1.

On Saturday, they will take on winless Pinedale, 0-11, 0-19, in an afternoon contest. The Panthers crushed the Wranglers 69-35 on Jan. 31.

“We’re in control of our own fate now,” Kistler said. “We’re in the driver’s seat. Friday will be a very big day.”

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