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March 06, 2014 8:57 am

Kistler relies on stats, study to lead team

Written by Tom Lawrence

First-year coach says there’s no reason Panthers can’t win regional tournament

"The film never lies.”

That’s one reason Powell High School boys’ basketball coach Chase Kistler invests several hours each weekend to studying the games his team plays. Kistler watches tapes of the games at his office adjacent to the Panther gym.

While doing so, he checks the stats compiled by Haley Wichman and Laura Bright, a pair of team managers, and grades the players based on their performance.

“You see a true effort, if a kid gives you a true effort or if he takes plays off,” Kistler said.

“Plus, it gives me an opportunity to see the game in a different light,” he said. “You get worked up during a game. Something you don’t see live you see on the film.”

Studying film also allows him to examine the “flow of a game” and how the momentum shifts. Kistler also looks at how well certain mixes of players work on the court.

It helps him decide starting lineups and how he will distribute minutes in the Class 3A West Regional Tournament, which opens in Mountain View today (Thursday). Powell will play Lyman at 8:30 p.m.

If the Panthers win, they may face rival Cody, which is in the same bracket, at 8:30 p.m. Friday. The title game, with Lander the favorite on the other side of the bracket possibly waiting, is set for 8:30 p.m. Saturday.

The top four teams at regionals advance to the state tourney the following weekend in Casper. Kistler hopes to take Powell back there with a chance to claim the state title that was lost by a shot at the buzzer by a Star Valley player in last year’s 3A championship game.

“We are working this week on some new twists,” he said during a study session in his office Sunday.

The players were banged around during practice, he said, and will have to prepare for rough, hard-nosed hoops. They may also work on more post plays, since the Panthers have relied on drives to the basket and outside shooting all season and they will need high-percentage shots to advance in the postseason.

Kistler said seniors Hayden Cragoe  and Cory Heny and juniors Kalei Smith and Carter Baxter will see a lot of minutes and seem sure to start. Seniors Senior Blake Schwan and Garrett Michael and juniors Zach Heny and Matt Sweet will also figure into the rotation.

Kistler said if Smith, who has averaged more than 20 points a game, can perform at or above that level, and Baxter, who has shown the ability to score in double figures, adds 15 poins or so, the Panthers will be in business.

Add in around 10 points from Cragoe, and outside scoring from the Henys and Schwan, and some inside points from Michael, and PHS will be difficult to stop, he said.

Rating players

Kistler uses an efficiency rating based on points, rebounds, assists, shooting percentages and blocked shots, as well as negative statistics such as turnovers and fouls. It’s something he picked up from other coaches over the years and has adapted as he sees fit, and another reason he carefully compiles stats while watching the games on tape.

Players can see grades in the 20s with strong all-around games. Smith, who has led the team in scoring all season and has also contributed rebounds, blocks and assists, is consistently ranked high on the efficiency scale.

Smith scored 27 on the scale on Feb. 1 when he totaled 30 points, five rebounds, two assists, two steals, four fouls and one turnover in a 63-50 loss to Lander.

However, the grading process also reveals the need for a balanced attack, as Kistler often stresses to his players. No other Powell player was in double figures on the scale, and two had negative scores.

After the 71-46 win at Pinedale on Feb. 22, Cragoe, who has displayed a variety of skills this season, scored 25 in the rating after a game in which he had 13 points, seven rebounds, four assists, three steals and two blocks. He was only called for one foul and had no turnovers.

In that same game, Schwan, who scored 22 points on 8-of-11 shooting, including 6-of-7 from 3-point range, received an efficiency rating of 19, since he added one rebound, two fouls and a turnover to his stat line.

“It helps me see who is playing consistently and who is struggling,” Kistler said of the efficiency ranking.

Heading into the postseason as the top man is a new experience for the Panther’s mentor. This is the first varsity head coaching job for Kistler, 31.

He was an assistant football coach for four years, an assistant boys’ basketball coach for three years, and coached the freshman boys squad for three seasons. Kistler is the school’s weight training coach, so he has known and worked with the boys on his team for years.

He is a Sheridan native who played basketball and football in high school and continued his football career at Black Hills State University in Spearfish, S.D. Kistler came home to Wyoming to complete his education at the University of Wyoming before he was hired by the Powell school district.

Kistler maintains the build of a basketball player, unlike some coaches whose formerly trim physiques sag once they head for the sidelines. He is dissimilar to other coaches in his style — Kistler is very quiet on the sidelines and in the huddle.

He has rarely squabbled with referees this season.

“You can’t change what the refs call,” Kistler said. “They have a tough job to do. I respect that.”

Plus, he has other things to worry about. Kistler said he wants to keep his players focused on what they discussed back in the fall when they started practices. The Panthers have shown all year they are a good road team, so he thinks they can do well at Mountain View this weekend.

“If we take care of business, we can be regional champs,” he said. “That’s still our goal.”

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