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February 27, 2014 9:11 am

Boys and girls to wrap regular season vs. Cody

Written by Tom Lawrence & CJ Baker

It’s not the usual weekend schedule.

The Powell boys’ and girls’ basketball teams will play a Thursday game for the first time all season today. They will follow that up by playing the sole Saturday night contest is not part of a tournament as well as being the final home games of the year.

The teams head to Worland today and will host arch-rival Cody on Saturday as the regular season comes to a close. For both the boys and girls teams, the match-up with Cody has postseason implications.

Powell’s boys are 10-3 in the Class 3A West, while Cody is 11-2. A Panthers’ win would leave them tied for second, but since Powell would then have won both games between the two Park County schools, it would claim the second seed at regionals.

A Cody win, however, would earn the Broncs the No. 2 seed. Cody has an outside chance at tying for the West’s top spot with Lander, but that seems very unlikely.

Although it split the season series with the Tigers, Lander plays winless Pinedale on Saturday. A Tigers win would move their conference mark to an impressive 13-1. Lander easily handled both Powell and Cody last weekend in Lander.

Powell boys’ basketball head coach Chase Kistler is focusing on finishing the regular season with a strong showing to get the Panthers ready for the regionals. Kistler said Powell and Worland have a strong rivalry, and he expects a spirited game, even though Worland is 4-9 in Class 3A East play and 6-14 overall, and Powell defeated the Warriors 60-54 in a holiday tourney on Dec. 21.

“It does mean a lot, because Worland’s a tough place to play,” he said. “It will also give us a look at the East and how they are playing.”

Hoyt Nicholas is having an outstanding season for the Warriors, averaging more than 20 points and nearly six rebounds per game. The sophomore guard is a talented outside shooter and will be a test for the Powell defense.

PHS girls head basketball coach Scott McKenzie said Worland’s Lady Warriors (8-5 in Class 3A East) have been playing well. The match-up “will kind of let us know how it looks over on the East,” McKenzie said.

Playing Worland on Thursday nights has been a regular note on the schedule in recent years.

“We don’t always play Worland on Thursday night; however, it has worked out that way the last few years,” said PHS Activities Director Tim Wormald. “The reason is because it is difficult to find a Friday or Saturday given the constraints of scheduling in the two different conferences — 3A East and West. Worland plays a conference opponent on Friday night, so that night was not available.”

Against Cody on Saturday, Powell will end its regular season while also celebrating senior night. There are five seniors on the boys team, including do-it-all talent Hayden Cragoe, Blake Schwan, who is coming off a 22-point game that included six 3-pointers, guard Cory Heny, who joined the team in midseason after recovering from a wrist injury; and post players Garrett Michael and Forrest Christensen.

The Lady Panthers, meanwhile, will send off five seniors of their own who have each played key roles this season: Shawnea Harrington, KaDee Harrison, Brooke Lensegrav, Tori Sleep and Jada Swires.

“We will recognize senior basketball players as well as senior members of the PHS dance team,” Wormald said. “Each student will have a display highlighting their high school careers, and we will introduce them between the varsity games.”

Since there is a matter of who finishes second to be determined, the game has more meaning than most on the schedule, but Kistler said there is a much bigger factor to consider.

“It’s a big game, plus it’s just Powell-Cody,” he said. The Panthers defeated Cody 51-45 on Jan. 24 in Cody.

The first-year head coach said he expects his players to be fired up when they take to the court.

“We better,” Kistler said. “To me, it doesn’t make sense not to be — you get to play a basketball game, you should be pumped up.”

The Lady Panthers also have plenty to play for.

At 9-4 in Class 3A West play, PHS is currently tied for the best conference record with Mountain View. However, 9-4 Mountain View holds the tiebreaker by having beaten Powell twice this year. So, the Lady Panthers would need the Lady Buffaloes to lose their Thursday game against Lyman (7-6 in conference) to remain in contention for 3A West’s top spot.

But even if Mountain View clinches the No. 1 seed, the PHS girls’ match-up with Cody (8-5 in conference) remains important, as it would determine who gets to be No. 2. That’s because Cody, by beating Mountain View earlier this season, holds the tiebreaker over Powell.

“We’re excited for that game,” McKenzie said of Saturday night, noting the “significant” implications for the regional tournament.

“We’re looking forward to some final games this week as we prepare for regionals and we’re still very confident, we still have our sights set on our goals,” he said.

Wormald said the Saturday night was scheduled for a few reasons.

“Given that we play a road game Thursday night, we didn’t want to schedule the game on Friday,” he said. “The Cody game usually has seeding implications, like it does this year, so we wanted both teams to be rested heading into it.”

The forecast calls for sub-zero temperatures Saturday night, but Wormald said there are no plans to move it to an afternoon start time.

It would be different if the opponent faced a long road trip, “we’d definitely look to move the game times up,” he said. “Given the short trip between here and Cody, we plan to keep the scheduled times. We want to keep the night game atmosphere that a Powell vs. Cody game deserves.”

Plus, he said, sometimes a sunny afternoon can make driving conditions better later in the day, as happened on Tuesday.

Once the horn sounds to end Saturday night’s rivalry game, the teams will turn their attention to preparing for regional competition on March 6-8 in Mountain View. The top four teams at that tourney advance to the state tourney the following weekend in Casper.

Kistler said even though Powell’s boys have lost to Lander twice this season, the two teams may meet at regionals and perhaps at the 3A State Tournament. The Panthers and Tigers may claw it out twice more.

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