During the 2013-14 season, the Powell High School boys basketball team shook off a slow start by winning the Big Horn Basin Classic. Saturday night, the Panthers did it again.
This season, PHS was struggling again during the opening part of the season. The trip to Worland once again invigorated the team, as Powell topped Rocky Mountain on Friday, bested Buffalo in the semifinals Saturday and handled Glenrock in the championship game. The Panthers now are 4-4 on the season.
Senior Kalei Smith became the all-time leading scorer in school history. He racked up 91 points during the weekend and broke his own record for points in a game, scoring 40 in the title contest, one more than he totaled in a game last spring. (See related story.)
“He’s just a great player,” head coach Chase Kistler said.
Powell juniors Jake Gallagher, Kaden Moore, Kristian Stenlund and sophomore T.J. Abraham joined with senior starters Smith, Carter Baxter, Zach Heny and Matt Sweet as Kistler continued to develop a dependable rotation.
Powell 64, Rocky Mountain 55
Powell opened play on Friday afternoon against Rocky Mountain, which drilled Ten Sleep 60-20 in a play-in game.
The Panthers claimed a nine-point win but not without a bit of a struggle over the Grizzlies.
“It was our first game out of the break,” Kistler said. “Hadn’t played a game since the 20th of December. It was one of those we had to get back in playing mode and used to competition again.
“We were using it to try different offenses and defenses,” he said. “It was more about getting our guys to execute and do it well.”
Powell held an 11-9 lead after the first period, with Smith pacing the Panthers with six points. Senior Kirby Winland scored all nine points for the 2A Grizzlies, who came into the game 6-1.
Powell held a 30-22 lead at halftime and was thankful when a long 3-point attempt at the buzzer by Rocky Mountain did not go in. That had been an all-too-regular event in December.
In the third period, Smith grabbed a rebound and went the length of the court to score, pushing the Powell lead to 35-25. After a timeout, Rocky Mountain scored a quick five points to cut the deficit in half.
Baxter nailed a three near the end of the third period to give Powell a 46-38 edge but the Grizzlies’ Bill Despain answered with one of his own to trim the lead to five going into the fourth quarter.
“They’re a good team and can shoot the ball real well,” Kistler said.
A pair of turnovers offered Rocky Mountain a chance to cut the lead, and it got within 48-45 before Baxter hit a reverse layup to give PHS some breathing room. He then hit another triple, and Powell was ahead 53-45.
Heny drilled a 3-pointer to help build the lead and then drove for a hoop, giving PHS a 58-49 lead. That took the growl right out of the Grizzlies, and the Panthers were able to secure the win.
Smith led PHS with 25 points and also grabbed 10 rebounds. Heny contributed 16 points and Baxter added 12 points, 11 rebounds and four steals. Stenlund had four points and led the team with three assists.
The Panthers shot well, hitting 24 of 45 shots from the field, including 19 of 33 from inside the circle. They struggled a bit at the line, making 11 of 18 free throws.
Winland paced the Grizzlies with 15 points. Senior Tanner Coleman had 14. Despain added 10 points and four boards.
Powell 60, Buffalo 45
PHS took on the Buffalo Bison at noon Saturday, eager for revenge after a 62-55 loss on Dec. 19 in the Panthers’ home opener.
Thanks to a dominant performance in the fourth quarter, holding the Bison scoreless for the opening six minutes and building a 20-point lead, Powell earned a chance to defend its tourney title.
It was a back-and-forth start, with the Panthers building an 11-10 lead after one period. The Bison, who came into the game 5-1, started fast in the second stanza, scoring the first eight points to build a lead before Baxter broke that skein with a hoop to make it 18-13. Smith scored and added a free throw to make it a two-point game.
But Buffalo quickly built a six-point lead, which it maintained for much of the rest of the first half as both teams missed shots and committed turnovers. Bison junior shooting guard Trey Schroefel notched his 10th point of the half to build the lead to eight before Smith scored twice to keep it close and Baxter got to the hoop on an inside move to make it 29-25 Buffalo. Powell added a point to pull within 29-26 at the half.
Smith hit a pair of free throws to make the score 33-30 and tie the career scoring record.
Smith seized the record late in the period, however, with a bucket off a rebound of a shot he took that was partially blocked.
Baxter nailed a jumper to make it 33-32. When guard Matt Sweet hit a driving layup and Baxter scored again, Powell took a one-point lead. Smith’s record-setting shot built the lead to four before the quarter ended with PHS ahead 39-38.
Smith slammed home a dunk early in the fourth period, bringing the Powell rooters to their feet. When Baxter scored after a timeout, Powell had a nine-point lead and control of the game.
“He complements Kalei very well,” Kistler said of Baxter. “He’s the motor of team. He does the little things, crashing the boards, getting on the floor.”
Powell built the lead to 20 points by not allowing the Bison to score. Kistler has asked his team to focus on defense, and it was clear they have been listening, as Powell outscored Buffalo 21-7 in the decisive period.
Smith scored 25 to once again lead the Panthers and added 11 rebounds and three steals. Baxter added 22 points. Gallagher had four points.
The Panthers hit 20 of 39 shots from inside the circle but just one of eight from distance. The team hit 11 of 22 free throws and out-rebounded Buffalo 24-23.
Schroefel led Buffalo with 14 points and senior Seth Thiele had five rebounds.
Powell 66, Glenrock 56
Powell claimed the tourney title for the second year in a row with a comfortable win over Glenrock Saturday night.
The Herders edged host Worland 51-49 Saturday afternoon to earn a berth in the title contest. They were 8-1 coming into the game.
The Panthers used a balanced attack to jump out to an 11-2 lead, as Smith, Heny, Sweet and Gallagher all scored in the opening moments, with Smith hitting a pair of threes.
But Glenrock went on a nine-point run to tie the game up. Smith almost immediately scored and was fouled. He missed the free throw but came up with the loose ball to make it 15-11.
Moore scored on a nice dish from Smith, and Baxter added a bucket in the closing seconds of the first period. Smith hit a pair of free throws with less than a second to play, giving him 12 points in the quarter and the Panthers a 21-15 edge.
Jordan Millay, a 6-6 post man who led the Herders past Powell in the semifinals at the 2015 State Class 3A Tournament, hit a triple and scored inside as well as the Herders rallied to take a 28-25 lead in the second stanza. He finished with 23 points and seven rebounds.
Kistler said Baxter, listed at 6-1, stood up to his taller opponent all game.
“He made him earn every point he got,” the coach said. “He did a tremendous job against a much bigger opponent.”
Smith scored his first points of the period to cut the lead to 28-27, but the half ended with Glenrock holding a 31-27 edge.
Sweet opened the second half with a triple and Smith soon added another as well as four two-point buckets. Smith scored in bursts, going quiet for stretches and then erupting on the offensive end.
When Moore hit a 3-pointer, Powell had a 40-37 edge and after Smith was done with his rampage, the Panthers had secured a 44-39 lead. Baxter joined the party with a jumper, and it was 46-40. A Smith triple from deep made it 49-43, and Smith boosted the lead to 51-43 with yet another basket. He scored 16 points in the quarter and had 29 going into the fourth quarter.
“When he gets really focused, he focuses on the task at hand,” Kistler said.
Although the Herders double- and tripled-teamed Smith at times and tried a box-and-one to have someone shadow him, Smith kept scoring and also looked for open teammates.
“We executed better as a team in second half,” Kistler said. “All weekend was a lot of good team wins.”
Glenrock made a run midway through the fourth period, cutting the lead to 54-48, but Smith answered with a driving score to push the lead back up to eight.
In addition to Smith’s record-setting 40, Moore had eight and Baxter and Sweet added six apiece. Powell shot just 37 percent from two-point range, hitting 14 of 38 shots. The Panthers were five of 16 from outside the circle and shot well from the line, going 13 for 16.
In addition to Millay’s 23, Tyler Olsen had seven. Both teams had 19 rebounds.
Powell hosts Worland at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Panther Gym and then travels to Douglas for a 4 p.m. game Saturday.
Smith ‘pretty amazing,’ says coach Kistler
Kalei Smith has dominated on the court the last two seasons for the Powell Panthers boys basketball team.
Now he has extended that dominance to the record book.
Smith holds the record for points in a game, 40, breaking the record of 39 he set against Cody in the spring. He set the new mark against Glenrock, which was the runner-up for the state 3A title last year, during the title game of the Big Horn Basin Classic in Worland Saturday night.
He has the season record of 600, which he scored last season, topping the 556 scored by Chase Partridge in 2011-12, and the career record of 1,174. The old career mark was set by Barry Iverson, who scored 1,123 points from 1963-67.
With more than 12 games left on the schedule plus the regional and possibly the state tourneys, Smith’s career mark could top 1,600 points, and he may well set a new season record as well
“It was pretty amazing,” head coach Chase Kistler said of Smith’s weekend performance. “The scary thing is, he did a great job of recognizing their defense. He did a great job of using the team, everyone on the team, to help get his points.”